The patent cliff is beginning to reduce Big Pharma’s sales figures as generic versions of branded drugs enter the market. Although FDA has remarked that pharmaceutical innovation is beginning to increase, not all companies are going to be able to market enough new drugs to make up for lost sales. So how will these vulnerable companies maintain their profits?
Producing vaccines could be a key strategy for firms that have invested in biopharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. Market research firm Kalorama Information reported that the world market for preventative vaccines rose from $22.1 billion in 2009 to $25.3 billion in 2010. It predicts that the market will grow at a compound annual rate of 9.3% during the next five years, thanks partly to sales in emerging markets.
The vaccine market generally is regarded as having two components: adult products and pediatric products. The pediatric market is the bigger of the two—it accounts for more than half of the total market and is growing at a faster rate than the adult market, according to Kalorama.
The growth in pediatric vaccines could spur the development of new drug-delivery methods—another go-to strategy for drugmakers facing the patent cliff. Kalorama predicts that the market for needle-free drug delivery methods will grow at an average rate of 15.1% from 2011 through 2016, when it will be valued at roughly $6.2 billion. More and more children, and needlephobic adults, might benefit from products such as patches and pen injectors.
The search for alternatives to injections could produce surprising results. Arizona Biodesign Institute has concluded three early-stage clinical trials using potatoes that carry vaccines against hepatitis B, E. coli, and the Norwalk virus, according to Kalorama.
These two reports confirm the growing importance of vaccines and new drug-delivery methods for the pharmaceutical industry. Companies with enough manufacturing muscle and scientific knowhow should be able to find creative ways to survive the coming welter of patent expirations. And their ingenuity will make life easier for patients, too.