horizon scanning Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

The EU Parliament voted its position on the Unitary SPC


by Giuliana Miglierini The intersecting pathways of revision of the pharmaceutical and intellectual property legislations recently marked the adoption of the EU Parliament’s position on the new unitary Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) system, parallel to the recast of the current Read more

Reform of pharma legislation: the debate on regulatory data protection


by Giuliana Miglierini As the definition of the final contents of many new pieces of the overall revision of the pharmaceutical legislation is approaching, many voices commented the possible impact the new scheme for regulatory data protection (RDP) may have Read more

Environmental sustainability: the EIPG perspective


Piero Iamartino Although the impact of medicines on the environment has been highlighted since the 70s of the last century with the emergence of the first reports of pollution in surface waters, it is only since the beginning of the 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.


A new joint work plan to 2023 for EMA and EUnetHTA 21

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The new Regulation (EU) 2021/228 on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) will assume full validity in January 2025, at the end of the 3-year transition period. To this instance, it is time to define the actions needed to establish the new framework for HTA in the field of medicinal products.

A central point of the new approach is represented by joint scientific consultations (JSCs) to be carried out in coordination between the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the bodies entitled of HTA at the level of single member states.

After the termination of the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA) initiative, in 2021, the new consortium EUnetHTA 21 has been created grouping thirteen HTA agencies from The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, Hungary and Norway. EUnetHTA 21 signed a contract service in 2021 with the Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) for the provision of joint health technology assessment up to September 2023.

On this basis, EMA and EUnetHTA 21 have now published a joint work plan of the activities to be put in place until 2023; the initiative represents the continuation of the EUnetHTA Joint Actions, started in 2010 and concluded in May 2021.

The document identifies the priority areas of future collaboration between regulators and HTA bodies at European level, with the final goal to “improve efficiency and quality of processes, whilst respecting the respective remits of different decision makers, and ensure mutual understanding and dialogue on evidence needs”.

The transition to the new legislative framework shall be based on a flexible approach to the different tasks; the work plan includes both methodological and operative actions, and it will be monitored in close cooperation with the EU Commission. Progresses will be discussed during the four bilateral meetings planned until September 2023.

Under the new framework, high priority HTA activities related to the service contract will be delivered by EUnetHTA 21. Other voluntary activities can be actioned through individual HTA bodies from a European (EU/EEA) member state that expressed their interest to participate. Should this be the case, the work plan clarifies that the position is that of the individual HTA body, not of EUnetHTA 21. A public consultation on deliverables part of the EUnetHTA’s mandate is also planned.

Actions in support of JSCs

Joint scientific consultations are the core of the new approach to HTA, aimed to generate a robust evidence relative to the entire life cycle of medicinal products, including the post-licensing and launch.

The work plan establishes a new European process of “parallel joint scientific consultation” involving both HTA bodies and EMA, that will take the place of the current procedures of parallel scientific advice, parallel consultation and early dialogue. This action shall make available a single assessment process, reflecting both regulatory and HTA’s needs.

Interested parties can apply to access the EMA/EUnetHTA parallel JSC procedure; a joint guidance on how to apply and the dates of EMA’s Scientific Advice Working Party (SAWP) meetings are available at the dedicated page of the Agency’s website, together with the template of the parallel consultation briefing document and submission deadlines. The joint guideline also provides details for applicants on how to respond to a EUnetHTA 21 open call for joint scientific consultation.

Exchange of information

The setting up of the JSC procedure includes the optimisation of the use of registries to facilitate post-licensing evidence generation (PLEG) and/or launch evidence to support decision making. To this instance, and depending on the specific products selected during the JSC, advice may be provided on requirements for data collection and analysis of disease registries in the context of development plans, or for qualification of registries in disease areas of particular mutual interest (including advanced therapies, ATMPs).

This exchange of information between EMA and EUnetHTA 21 may lead to discussions in order to monitor progress in the identification of PLEG. Under this action, a voluntary pilot might be activated to explore the feasibility of earlier engagement with an HTA agency during regulatory assessment, including evidence sharing and managing of uncertainties. A main outcome of this area of cooperation shall see the initial drafting of the rules for the exchange of information on the preparation and update of joint clinical assessment of medicinal products.

Capturing patient relevant data and information

The ability to generate patient relevant data and information is key to support the process of decision making. The joint work plan aims to develop new methodologies to improve reliance of patient relevant data. To this instance, the cooperation with EUnetHTA is expected to contribute to EMA’s initiative to establish an EU network of experts on Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs). The work plan also includes voluntary actions focused on the discussion and exchange of relevant data in bilateral meetings, in parallel with the development of the respective guidelines, and a workshop on patient experience data planned in June 2022.

The work plan shall also favour a better engagement of patients and healthcare professionals in areas of mutual interest. To this regard, EMA and EUnetHTA 21 will share their best practices as for compensation for expert participation and how to incorporate the input received in regulatory and HTA deliverables.

Preparedness for future challenges

The need to better understand challenges arising from the development of innovative treatments will benefit the sharing of horizon scanning activities between EMA and EUnetHTA 21. This may include, on a voluntary basis, joint discussions on data requirements and preparative measures relative to high-impact innovative medicines for patients with high unmet needs. Other voluntary activities by individual HTA bodies may focus on the optimisation of regulatory assessment reports in order to facilitate the uptake of their outcomes as part of the HTA process. Sharing of experience and guidance on the optimisation of information on subpopulations (e.g. labelling and EPARs) may also be considered, as well as the improvement of Orphan Medicines Assessment Reports (OMARs). Under the methodological perspective needed to make real-world evidence more available, a main goal of the plan shall achieve HTA representation in the advisory board of Darwin EU, the Data Analysis and Real World Interrogation Network established and coordinated by EMA to provide timely and reliable evidence on the use, safety and effectiveness of medicines for human use from real-world healthcare databases across the EU.

Other voluntary activities in this area may include multi-stakeholder discussions aimed to optimise the design, quality and utilisation of disease registries and the training on new guidance on registry-based studies. Joint methodological work may be also carried out to identify key concepts supporting the acceptance of extrapolation and/or evidence transfer, and to share best practices and experiences in the field of the integrated assessment of companion diagnostics, or other diagnostics for targeting therapeutics not directly related to the use of specific medicines.