For the biopharmaceutical industry, 2017 was marked by noteworthy innovation as well as disappointments across therapy areas, set against a backdrop of remarkable advances in technology in healthcare and the growing presence of biosimilars according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The company reviewed industry R&D activity in 2017 under four key headings, namely:
Over the course of the year, nearly every major therapeutic area saw regulatory approvals of first-in-class and otherwise groundbreaking novel drugs.
- The first two CAR T-cell drugs in oncology, Novartis’s Kymriah in ALL and Gilead’s Yescarta in DLBCL
- The first biologic in atopic dermatitis, Regeron’s Dupixent
- The first drug indicated for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, Roche’s Ocrevus
Claire Herman, Global Director of Therapy Analysis and Epidemiology at GlobalData, said, “Each of these approvals fills a critical clinical unmet need and alters the treatment paradigm.”
Pharmaceutical R&D saw significant setbacks in 2017. The historically high attrition rate in Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics persisted, with the failures of two high-profile 5-HT6 receptor antagonists. In the rapidly expanding immuno-oncology space, Keytruda and Opdivo failed to meet endpoints in key trials in head and neck cancer and glioblastoma, respectively.
However, as Herman confirms, “In Alzheimer’s, oncology, and other areas that saw late-stage failures in 2017, other candidates are waiting in the wings.”
Digital Health Advances
The impact of technology on healthcare was felt far and wide in 2017. Throughout the year, the industry saw advances in digital health across the spectrum of the drug lifecycle, from clinical trials, to disease diagnosis, to treatment selection, to patient monitoring.
Herman added, “With collaborations between pharma companies and technology giants such as Apple and Google making headlines regularly, the pace of digital health innovation is unlikely to slow in the year to come.”
In oncology and immunology, biosimilars are becoming an increasingly competitive therapeutic choice, and ophthalmology is not far behind. The approvals in 2017 and previous years of lower-priced biosimilar versions of market-leading branded biologics – including Humira, Remicade, Enbrel, Herceptin, and Rituxan – have not led to high uptake in the clinic. However, as Herman concludes, “As physicians’ comfort with the class grows, we expect increased erosion in 2018 and beyond.”