“Novel technologies are really the backbone of targeted delivery,” said Chananit Sintuu, a researcher for Lux Research, who believes pharmaceutical companies’ “budgets for novel delivery systems should definitely be larger.”
It is ‘a must’ for pharmaceutical firms to establish ‘wise’ partnerships with emerging delivery developers, according to Sintuu, as these will help maintain a competitive edge through innovative start-ups along the value chain.
Referring to the ever growing number of drug patent expirations set to hit big pharma firms in the next few years - Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) being one example - Sintuu said that between 2012 and 2014, over $140bn (€104bn) in sales revenue will disappear as a direct result.
With this in mind, she argues “these corporations are scrambling for the next blockbuster drug when they should really start to consider developing more effective delivery systems.”
Sintuu highlighted that innovative delivery systems may provide benefits in a drug’s efficacy, ease of use or cost. Also, the simple novelty of a delivery system can “really move a product to the top of a shopper’s list.”
Novel delivery systems a recipe for success?
It remains important for the development of effective new drug delivery technologies to be carefully thought out and drug companies must realise there is no guarantee that all ‘innovative’ delivery technologies are destined to become the next best-seller.
In recent years, drug giant, Pfizer dropped Exubera – the firm’s inhaled insulin which had failed as a potential $2bn a year blockbuster. Pfizer, disappointed by the $4m in global revenues it generated, were forced to cease production of the device.
Yet Sintuu expects to see a rise in pharmaceutical companies looking to pursue targeted delivery alliances with small start-ups and academic labs “as more and more illnesses become manageable by the patient outside a hospital setting.”
“Consumers do not want to advertise their medical condition to the world with a scary-looking medical device or frequent shots or pills,” she said, pointing out that children and the elderly can find it difficult to use certain delivery devices, therefore creating a need in the market.
Sintuu suggests instead that consumers are opting for discreet, convenient and effective devices and those are the ones which ultimately stand to become “high-value” products.
Delivery technologies on the market
Recently Cambridge Consultants and Sun Pharma collaborated to develop an inhaler that is capable of administering a metered dose of the drug to the deep lung, regardless of the strength of the patient’s intake of breath.
The firms claimed a specially designed airway design and breath activation mechanism ensures the drug can be aerosolised into the correct particle size for successfully reaching the lung where other, conventional inhalers have proved ineffective.
Meanwhile, Celanese launched its VitalDose excipient which consists of polymers of ethylene coupled with vinyl acetate (EVA) which can be varied between 6 and 40 per cent to adjust the excipient’s controlled-release properties.
The firm said that developing enhanced formulations, such as its VitalDose technology, is crucial to providing drugmakers with a competitive edge in the pharma market.
Moreover, pharmaceutical companies have recognised that the adoption of an intelligent delivery system can extend a drug’s life cycle.