A new report from the IMS Institute for Health Informatics highlights the plights and promises of the rapidly growing cancer drug industry.
In terms of diagnoses, there’s arguably nothing scarier a patient can hear than the phrase, “you have cancer.”
According to statistics from the World Health Organization, some 14 million cases of cancer are diagnosed annually, and within two decades, this figure is expected to increase by nearly 60% to 22 million. Cancer comes in dozens of different types, and the risk factors of developing cancer tend to differ from one type of disease to another. Age, however, tends to be a nearly universal risk factor, so the longer we live, the higher the incidence rate of cancer.
The data isn’t as horrifying as it sounds, though. Population growth accounts for a good portion of estimated cancer incidence growth in the coming two decades, access to preventative care is improving around the globe, we are indeed living longer (which is a good thing), and cancer medications are more effective than they’ve ever been. Things are definitely improving in terms of patient care, even if the number of annual diagnoses is on the rise.
Unfortunately, this efficacy has led to a ballooning in cancer drug costs, among other things, according to the annual release of the Global Oncology Trend Report from IMS Institute for Health Informatics using IMS Health‘s (NYSE:IMS) analytics. Within IMS’ encompassing report can be found 9 cancer statistics that fully describe where the oncology market has been and where it’s headed next. In no particular order, here are those 9 outrageous cancer drug statistics.
1. 70 new cancer drugs have been launched in the past five years.
With cancer being such a large unmet indication, drug developers have been seemingly working around the clock to bring new medications to market. But this isn’t done overnight, and most oncology medications in the discovery, laboratory, preclinical, and clinical stages will fail to make it to pharmacy shelves. However, with such a vast number of drug developers researching cancer, we’ve witnessed 70 new treatments launched within the past five years.
2. Only six countries have access to more than half of the 49 recently approved NASes.
Unfortunately, not everyone is benefiting from these new drug launches, even if access to medical care is improving in emerging and underdeveloped markets. Because of the complexities of the healthcare networks in certain countries, as well as drug developers and ex-U.S. health agencies not seeing eye to eye on reimbursement costs, just six countries — U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the U.K. — have access to at least half of the 49 new active substances (NASes) introduced within oncology over the past five years.
3. Global cancer sales should reach $150 billion by 2020.
Despite limited access to some of these new oncology drugs outside of developed countries, global oncology sales are nonetheless expected to rake in big bucks for the pharmaceutical industry by 2020. IMS Institute for Health Informatics is estimating that sales could soar to $150 billion by 2020, reflecting annual growth of 7.5% to 10.5% from the $107 billion spent in 2015. While the oncology market is always changing, my best guess is that Celgene‘s multiple myeloma blockbuster Revlimid, Bristol-Myers Squibb‘s cancer immunotherapy Opdivo, and AbbVie‘s and Johnson & Johnson‘s Imbruvica will be three of the biggest contributors, with respective annual sales that could total (by my estimates) $10 billion-$11 billion, $8 billion-$9 billion, and $6 billion-$8 billion, respectively, by 2020.
4. Nearly 90% focused on targeted therapies
One of the primary reasons we’re seeing such incredible improvements in efficacy and patient quality of care these days is drug developers’ focus on targeted therapies. By personalizing the treatment to focus on biomarkers specific to the patient’s cancer, drugmakers are finding ways to incite better overall response rates that in many cases appear to be longer lasting. In total, nearly nine out of 10 all newer oncology drugs are now classified as “targeted therapies.”
5. The median time from patent filing to FDA approval is 9.5 years.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also doing its part to help funnel potentially game-changing cancer drugs to market. Without compromising safety, the FDA has dropped the average time it takes to bring a new cancer drug to market by nearly a full year since 2013. The introduction of the Breakthrough Therapy Designation, which allows for the expedited review of therapies aimed at treating unmet and/or serious diseases, and can even mean skipping a late-stage study, has been crucial in lowering the time it takes for a cancer drug to go from patent filing to FDA approval from 10.3 years in 2013 to 9.5 years in 2015.
6. The U.S. accounts for 45% of all oncology drug sales.
With the demand for pharmaceutical products higher in the U.S. than any other country in the world, it should come as no surprise that the U.S. accounts for approximately 45% of global oncology sales. The lack of a universal health plan in the U.S., extended periods of patent protection, and insurers being generally unwilling to fight back against high drug costs for fear of losing members will all likely keep six-digit price tags for many cancer therapies firmly in place.
7. 11.5% of U.S. drug expenditures is from oncology.
Not only does the U.S. account for 45% of global oncology sales, but the cost of global oncology sales relative to total pharmaceutical spending in the U.S. is rising. Per IMS, 11.5% of all U.S. drug expenditures are a result of cancer drugs, up from 10.5% in 2011. The likely reason cancer drug spending is growing as a percentage of U.S. total drug costs is probably tied to non-cancer blockbuster drugs coming off patent between 2011 and 2015. The introduction of generics for Lipitor, the statin that is still the best-selling drug of all time, and a host of other previous blockbuster drugs, has made the growth in oncology drugs even more visible to the public and investors.
8. Average treatment costs were $58,000 in 2014.
As noted above, the cost of treating cancer is a huge burden in the United States. According to IMS, cancer patients receiving treatment on a commercial insurance plan cost an average of $58,000 in 2014, which was up a whopping 19% from 2013. The majority of new cancer drugs hitting pharmacy shelves today cost well over the $100,000 mark, and even with gross-to-net reductions offered from drug developers to insurers, this can still cost a pretty penny.
9. Nearly 40% of oncology costs are for oral formulations.
One of the more pleasant trends we’ve been witnessing of late in cancer drug development is a push away from injected or infused treatments and toward oral cancer medications. Patients being able to take their medication in the comfort of their own homes is surely a genuine leap forward in patient quality of care. According to IMS, nearly 40% of the cost of all cancer drugs today goes toward oral cancer drugs, up from just 26% in 2010.
10. Injection/infusion oncology treatments are more than double the out-of-pocket costs of oral drugs.
Last, but not least, there’s a pretty substantial cost difference in what patients are paying out of their own pockets when it comes to injected or infused cancer medicines versus oral medications. Since infused or injectable medicines need to be done within a medical setting, the average patient is having to pay more than $7,000 out of pocket. Comparatively, cancer patients receiving only oral medicines are handing over about $3,000 in out-of-pocket costs.
To quickly summarize, we’re seeing more options than ever for cancer patients, but it’s also resulting in some serious strains on insurers’ and patients’ pocketbooks.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.