TREND: Rare disease, cancer drugs will drive pharma M&A’s, growth

pharmafile | March 29, 2016 | Feature | Manufacturing and Production, Research and Development, Sales and Marketing M&A, MA, Orphan Drugs, cancer drugs 

Moody’s Investor Service lowered its growth outlook for the global pharma sector but maintained the mergers and acquisitions in the sector will continue to help drive growth through cost-savings and replenishing pipelines.

The rating agency said: “Pharmaceutical companies will remain active in the M&A market as they try to cut costs, achieve greater scale and diversification and acquire pipeline drugs with high potential.”

The agency downgraded the view on the sector to stable from positive and lowered its growth view to 3%-4% against 4%-5%, forecast earlier.

The earnings growth in the global pharmaceutical industry is set to be impacted by lower pricing flexibility, headwinds from a strong US dollar and slower adoption of some new products will dampen, Moody’s said.

Stymied organic growth

With Ireland-base Shire finally bagging Baxalta in a multi-billion dollar deal following months of wooing one may wonder if the sector has finally seen it all. However, if the worldwide growth estimates for the rare disease market are anything to go by, we might just be getting started.

Slow pace of research and long gestation periods for new drug developments don’t help the bottom lines either and the companies have taken to chasing growth via portfolio acquisitions and research collaborations.  

The industry has also switched focus on the development of drugs for the rare diseases as an avenue to drive future growth. In addition, a big portion of all the recent mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotech sector have involved an orphan drug/ portfolio over the past year, the latest being Shire’s takeover of Baxalta, a company with a portfolio of drugs in development stages to treat rare forms of blood diseases. Baxalta also has a portfolio of rare disease drugs in hematology, oncology and immunology, making it a lucrative takeover target.

Rare disease, cancer drugs to boost growth

EvaluatePharma has pegged the global sales for orphan drugs at $178 billion, growing by11.7% per year, over the five year period between 2015 and 2020, nearly double the yearly growth of the overall prescription drug market.

The global sales for orphan drugs are estimated at $178 billion, growing by11.7% per year, over the five year period between 2015 and 2020, nearly double the yearly growth of the overall prescription drug market, according to the market research firm EvaluatePharma. Needless to say companies engaged in developing orphan drug profiles will continue to be desirable targets. 

Moody’s said, “Growth remains strong for cancer drugs, especially those in the immuno-oncology category like Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and Merck & Co’s Keytruda.”

The research for orphan drugs does not draw a lot of competition as it requires getting past a stringent set of rules to gain the status. In the US, rare diseases are those that impact less than 200,000 people. The European Union defines it as less than 250,000 and for Japan the number stands at less than 50,000.

The very fact that the drugs belong in the rare category means they can be started at a higher price point. Further, the statistics also indicate that once ready for the markets, these drugs get to enjoy a longer exclusivity period. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides for 7 years of marketing exclusivity starting from the time of approval, while in the European Union the orphan drugs are given 10 year market exclusivity.

Oncology drugs are expected to hit between $100 billion and $120 billion in sales in 2020, according to IMS. Additionally, a big chunk of the 225 drug approvals over the next five years will be in the oncology segment.  

About 7,000 rare medical conditions will find 470 drugs for treatment by 2020, the market research firm forecasts.  The overall global spending on orphan drugs is expected to be in the range of 1-2%, it will make up for about 10% of the total spending in developed markets like the US.

Top selling orphan, cancer drugs

Celgenes’ myeloma drug, Revlimid (lenalidomide) is forecast to remain the top selling orphan drug through to 2020 clocking revenues of over $10 billion per year. Revlimid was first approved in 2005 as treatment of the rare-disorder myelodysplastic syndrome. The drug is also approved for the orphan indications Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma and remains in development for a number of other rare conditions.

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo to treat melanoma and designated for Hodgkin lymphoma, small cell lung cancer, hepatoma and glioblastoma is estimated to take the second place in terms of sales. The drug is forecast to bring in yearly revenues of over $8 billion to 2020.

Sales forecasts for 10 bestselling orphan drugs to 2020

EvaluatePharma estimates total worldwide sales forecast for the orphan drug market at $178 billion by 2020, growing at the rate of 11.7% per year. The research firm sees the worldwide orphan drug sales to account for 20.2% of worldwide prescription sales by 2020.

In the oncology segment, Swiss drug major, Roche is set to remain the market leader backed by the portfolio of three top selling cancer drugs Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan. The company will also benefit from the growing focus on personalized medicine with the research in the coming decade increasingly switching to immunology for treatments.

On the other hand, with Rituxan and Herceptin going off patent, it would be interesting to watch the impact of the new potential biosimilar launches, and their impact on the sales for the drugs.  

Sales forecasts for 10 bestselling cancer drugs to 2020

Anjali Shukla

Related Content


Funding overview for the pharmaceutical industry and outlook for 2020

This article was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of Pharmafocus.With the advent of …

Pfizer to combine off-patent drug unit Upjohn with Mylan

Pfizer’s off-patent drug unit Upjohn is combining with Mylan to create a new global pharmaceutical …

ICR calls for faster access to innovative cancer drugs

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has called for faster access to innovative cancer drugs …

Latest content