biologics Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Lessons learnt to transition from Horizon 2020 to the new FP10


by Giuliana Miglierini The European Commission published the ex post evaluation of Horizon 2020 (H2020), the FP8 framework programme for research and innovation (R&I) run in years 2014-2020. The report identifies several areas of possible improvement, which may be taken into Read more

Approvals and flops in drug development in 2023


by Giuliana Miglierini Approvals and flops in drug development in 2023 The European Medicines Agency published its annual highlights, showing 77 medicines were recommended for marketing authorisation, and just 3 received a negative opinion (withdrawals were 19). In 2023 some highly expected Read more

Webinar: Oral Colon Drug Delivery - Design Strategies


EIPG webinar Next EIPG webinar is to be held on Wednesday 21st of February 2024 at 17.00 CET (16.00 GMT) in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork. Anastasia Foppoli, will discuss on the various approaches and the general aspects Read more

The risk of a biosimilar void in Europe

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The undergoing revision of the pharmaceutical legislation aims, among others, to redefine data protection to better support competitiveness of generics and biosimilars and to favour the timely access of patients to treatments.

While the innovator pharma industry is claiming the proposed reform would reduce the attractiveness of Europe for R&D activities, a recent report from Iqvia analysed the status of biosimilar competition. According to the document, not all biological medicines experiencing loss of exclusivity (LoE) in the next decade would automatically face competition by the corresponding biosimilars. This would result in the creation of a “biosimilar void” on the market, with many originators losing protection without seeing the parallel development of their biosimilar versions.

Competition is not guaranteed

Biosimilar competition is not necessarily guaranteed, and emerging dynamics pose a risk to conventional notions of medicines lifecycles, states the report since its very beginning. The analysis refers to biological medicines that will lose protection in the period 2023-2032.

Despite the approx. 8-fold expected increase in LoE opportunity by value between 2012 and 2032 (from €4.4 billion to €32.2 bln, as result of loss of exclusivity for 110 biological medicines), data show a declining trend for years 2021-2023 (€4.3 bln). According to Iqvia, more than a half (55%) of biologics with LoE in the period 2023-2027 might experience the lack of a biosimilar in development.

The report highlights five areas of common perception to be addressed to better define the issue. The increasing complexity of many biological medicines coupled to new barriers to entry is one of the factors making the development of biosimilars interesting only for products referred to originators with large market shares. According to Iqvia, 27% of the 26 high-sales products that will reach loss of exclusivity by the end of 2032 do not have yet a biosimilar candidate in development in Europe (vs 45% at the global level), corresponding to a potential loss of approx. €8 bln market opportunity. The number of biosimilar candidates in the pipeline for high-sales biologics is also expected to decrease from 2027 onwards.

Regulatory hurdles, therapeutic classes, and disease indication are expected to play a greater role in guiding decisions on biosimilar development, indicates the report. The attractiveness of the European market should also be considered. Oncology will remain the more interesting area, with 44% of all candidates in early to late development for LoE events occurring between 2023 and 2027. Immunology and ophthalmology are other therapeutic areas that might experience growing competition.

The current barriers to biosimilar development

According to Iqvia, the main constraints limiting the decision on biosimilars development are represented by cost and time. In the oncology area, for example, high costs have to be considered to purchase the reference comparator biologic medicine, and large patients populations are required to demonstrate relevant clinical endpoints. New therapeutic classes, i.e., PD-L1/PD-1 inhibitors, may also pose challenges for the design of pharmacokinetic and equivalence studies. From the manufacturing perspective, the increasing use of antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) would result in new barriers to entry.

According to Iqvia, the least attractive products for biosimilars development are those with less than €500 million annual sales in Europe. The report shows 93% of these products might fail to see biosimilar competition, compared to 27% of high-sales medicines. This negative trend would result in a “biosimilar void” corresponding to approx. €15 bln in lost savings. Iqvia also identified some exceptions that might experience a niche development, on the basis of specific technological and manufacturing know-how, platforms and market access excellence.

Another factor to be considered is reimbursement rate, that the report identifies in 51% for low-sales biologics with no biosimilar pipeline (approx. 30% lower than for products with a biosimilar pipeline). The management of the intellectual property referred to the originator should be also taken into consideration.

Orphan and one-off medicines

Despite the growing number of new biologics reaching marketing authorisation as orphan medicines, according to Iqvia biosimilar development is undergoing by now for only one product (eculizumab). No other orphan biologics are expected to face biosimilar competition in future, as annual sales of the 39 orphan medicines currently on the market are too low (approx. €105 mln).

A major factor limiting the development of biosimilars for orphan medicines is linked to the fact many of these therapies fall in the antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) and cell- or gene-therapies (ATMPs) categories (wave 3 biologics). This implies many challenges from the development and manufacturing point of view, higher upfront investments and a more complex setup for analytical and clinical testing.

According to Iqvia, there are currently 16 non-orphan biosimilar candidates under development, corresponding to wave 3 biologics. A limiting factor for this pipeline is identified in the still present fragmentation of the European regulatory system, e.g., reimbursement policies, incentives, and clinical standards. ATMPs, also referred to as one-off therapies, represent a particular case, being relatively young on the market. This leads to no expectation of LoE events in the next five years. The trend would then change, with some 10 products losing protection by 2040, but it should be considered together with the parallel declining of the number of eligible patients, as many of them might have been already treated with the one-off originator medicine.

Shifting standards of care

Another factor analysed by Iqvia is the impact on biosimilars development of the possible changes in the current standards of care, for example resulting from the availability of new and more user-friendly formulations of the originator (i.e., subcutaneous vs intravenous injections). The availability of second- and third generation versions of the original biologic should be considered as another factor limiting the possible market share of a biosimilar of the first-generation product. The picture is indeed furthermore complicated, as another frequent possibility, especially in the oncology area, sees the development of combination therapies based on the use of two or more biologics. As already said, some of them might be very costly (i.e. monoclonal antibodies and PD-1 inhibitors), and require a larger study population to demonstrate equivalence of the add-off effect.

The proposed solutions to fill the biosimilar void

The Iqvia report proposes several possible solutions to overcome the expected biosimilar void, starting from horizon scanning activities aimed at early identification of upcoming LoE events in order to prevent contractions in biosimilar development. Horizon scanning may also support market entry and granting of incentives based on demand. The development of biosimilars of orphan medicines might benefit of a default waiver of comparative efficacy studies, a suggested measure that according to Iqvia would not compromise the demonstration of biosimilarity. Improvements at the regulatory level might also help to streamline development, together with global convergence of regulatory guidance. Iqvia also suggests the adoption of clear regulatory pathways to incentivise the development of the next-generation, one-off biosimilar gene- and cellular treatments. Access might be improved by optimisation of market conditions, with incentives for clinicians combined with the introduction of prescription targets. New tender models would also be needed to favour multi-winner procurement practices.


Trends in Drug delivery and Formulation

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by Giuliana Miglierini

According to the 2021 Global Drug Delivery & Formulation Report, signed by Kurt Sedo, Vice President Operations, PharmaCircle LLC and published in a three-part series on Drug Development & Delivery, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have had little impact on the regulatory approvals of new dosage forms and formulations. A positive sign from the pharmaceutical ecosystem, considering the difficulty to maintain normal operative conditions, the issues with international supply chains and the many hurdles to regulatory activities posed by the emergency.

According to Kurt Sedo, products newly approved by the FDA and based on new chemical entities have been the less affected, as they reflect a larger benefit for patients. On the other hand, are generics, together with new dosage forms and new formulations. Simple dosage forms continue to represent the great part of new approvals, while biologics prevail in terms of NCEs for injection.

The FDA approved in 2021 a total of 31 new products under the Biologics Licence Application (BLA) procedure, slightly more than in the previous two years. The increase is mainly linked to the higher number of vaccines and cell and gene therapies, while approval of biologic medicines maintained stable.

Approval trends by category of product

A marked decrease characterised Abbreviated New Drug Approvals (ANDA) (627 in 2021, vs 903 in 2020 and 962 in 2019). New Drug Applications (NDA) also slightly decreased. Analysing this category by type of product, the decrement is marked for new molecular entities and new dosage forms, while an opposite trend can be observed for new active ingredients and new formulations/new manufacturers.

As for administration route, the report indicates a marked prevalence of injection in all geographic areas (US 55%, EU 36%, JP 59%); oral drugs also continue to be highly represented. The author warns about the difficulty to reliably interpret the figures for European and Japanese approvals, as “The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approvals relate only to specific classes of pharmaceutical products and don’t capture the full range of products. The Japanese Pharmaceutical Medical and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) published approvals are hard to access and properly assess”.

Looking more in detail at the injection route of administration, intravenous injectable products remain the leading category (US 39%, EU 38%, JP 38%), followed by subcutaneous injection. Simple solutions with or without a dedicated delivery device were the most commonly approved injectable simple dosage forms in 2021. Tablets and capsules remained the favoured oral dosage forms, while granules and pellets are especially represented in paediatric formulations.

Small molecules are the more represented category of active ingredients (US 64%, EU 74%, JP 52%), followed by antibodies and peptides; this last category of API offer the advantage of a possible formulation as non-injectable dosage form.

A deeper insight on the main approvals

Part 2 of the series debates the main products approved in 2021. The trend hints to a higher interest towards products and technologies targeted to wider patient populations and more diverse applications. According to Sedo, mRNA and gene therapy platforms have decrease their appealing due to need of validation for applications different than vaccines in the first case and safety and durability concerns in the latter.

Skytrofa (Ascendis Pharma) is a pegylated form of the growth hormone lonapegsomatropin-tcgd for injection or subcutaneous administration, using the dedicated rechargeable and reusable auto-injector. The weekly administration is the main advantage, overruling the need of daily injections.

Invega Hafyera (Janssen Pharmaceuticals), containing paliperidone palmitate as the active ingredient, has been approved in the US to treat adult schizophrenia by intramuscular injection every 6 months. Despite the parent molecule has already lost its exclusivity, Kurt Sedo highlights the remarkable lifecycle management of the Invega family of products, which allowed Janssen to maintain significant revenues for almost 20 years.

Tyrvaya (Oyster Point Pharma) is indicated to treat dry eye using the nasal delivery route. The formulation containing varenicline is administered using the Aptar’s CPS Spray Pump, representing the first approval for this type of technology platform. The possibility to overcome issues in treating ocular conditions connected to the difficulty many patients may experience with the administration of classical ocular drops is the main point of innovation.

Acuvue Theravision (Johnson & Johnson Vision Care) are contact lenses firstly approved in Japan and containing ketotifen to treat allergic conjunctivitis. In this case too, the approach may be replicated to administer other types of drugs in the eye. Issues may be represented by the difficulty of patients in using contact lenses and the need to stabilise the active ingredient to prevent leaching.

Cabenuva Kit (ViiV Healthcare) contains the combination cabotegravir – rilpivirine to treat HIV infection. Firstly, approved in Canada, it is administered monthly by intramuscular injection. Long-acting formulations can prove interesting to overcome compliance issues which may result in serious consequences for patients, as already proved in the case of hepatitis.

The monoclonal antibody Susvimo (anibizumab; Genentech) is formulated as a refillable ocular implant to treat wet acute macular degeneration. After implantation, the intravitreal injections using the Port Delivery System (PDS) occur every 6 months.

Other relevant technologies mentioned among new 2021 approvals include the Medicago Virus Like Particles (VLP) technology, which uses tobacco-related plants as bioreactors to produce noninfectious VLP that mimic the target virus, and LICA technology (Ionis), based on Ligand Conjugated Antisense (LICA) to favour the interaction of ligands and their respective receptors.

The Denali Transport Vehicle (TV) platform uses specific antibodies, enzymes, oligonucleotides, or proteins to link to the transferrin receptor of the blood vessel wall in the brain, thus providing a way to pass the blood-brain barrier by endocytosis.

MedRing (Ligalli) is a smart vaginal insert containing a miniaturised liquid formulation drug container with pump, battery, antenna, electronics, and sensors to monitor various biometric parameters (e.g. glucose or ovulation status).

Q-Sphera (Midatech Pharma) provides a bioencapsulation process using a microfluidic device to obtain discrete droplets without use of surfactants, toxic solvents, biphasic mixtures, shear, or heat forces.

Products in the pipelines

Part 3 of the series addresses the expectations for new approvals of products still in the pipelines The trend shows a higher percentage of early-stage products (research and pre-clinical phases), which is attributed to the higher interest of investors towards new companies able to fill the pipelines with early stage projects. The impact of Covid-19 has proved to be more relevant on projects at the clinical stage.

Small molecules still represent the main focus of development (59% in 2021/22), even if a drop has been observed from values recorded in 2015/16 (66%). Biological products may pose issues due to their highly speculative nature, suggests the report, while oligonucleotide and RNA products still represent only the 2% of the total in the pipelines; a more mature technology are antibodies (12%).

Cancer continues to be the leading therapeutic area of development, followed by infectious diseases and drugs to treat the central nervous system. The report indicates a very high attrition rate for anti-infectives under development, while many anti-cancer therapeutics in the pipelines may be me-too products pursuing validated therapeutic mechanisms. As seen above, injectable formulations maintain the leading position also for products under development (52%), followed by oral formulations.