New Medications New Opportunities for Pharma
If you have attended my CE presentation on Pharmacy I point out the significant impact we continue to see with the release of new specialty medications on the cost of an employer’s health insurance program. I found the recent release of two new medications to address peanut allergies in children to be of interest and want to share this update with you:
Background: It is estimated that 2% of children (1.2 million) in the U.S. have peanut allergies. This is a significant opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry. There are two new drug therapies that have been fast tracked by the FDA and will be coming to market.
Viaskin Peanut®: This is the first epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT) to reduce the risk of a reaction resulting from accidental peanut exposure in those who are allergic. The drug, delivered via a patch applied to the skin, was studied in children 4-11 years of age with history of allergic reaction to tiny amounts of peanut protein. 35.3 percent of study participants responded to treatment compared to 13.6 percent in the placebo group. There are no studies showing improvement in quality of life measures, which seems to be the main role of these therapies. It has not been shown to produce full tolerance to peanuts and must be taken long-term to maintain effect. Still, the potential for any degree of social, emotional or physical relief for the 2% of children (and their caregivers) in the United States with a peanut allergy may be enough to create demand. The price is expected to be $6,500 per year.
Palforzia®: Palforzia® is an oral immunotherapy for reducing risk of a reaction resulting from accidental exposure to peanuts in those who are allergic. The drug is delivered in a powder form mixed into foods, with scheduled dose increases every two weeks for approximately six months until a maintenance dose is reached. Palforzia® was studied in children 4-17 years of age and included patients who were more sensitive, on average, to peanuts versus those in the Viaskin Peanut® study. 67.2 percent of patients responded to treatment versus four percent in the placebo group. Balancing this robust response, however, is a 52 percent incidence of abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea in the treatment group. Palforzia, like Viaskin, has not been shown to produce full tolerance to peanuts and both products must be taken long-term to maintain effect. However, again, the potential for any degree of social, emotional or physical relief for the 2 percent of children (and their caregivers) in the US with a peanut allergy may be enough to create demand. The expected cost is estimated between $31,800 to $62,400 in the first year of treatment and then $3,600 to $4,800 per year thereafter.
I am certain you will be seeing a significant marketing campaign by the manufacturers to create the demand for their new medications.