October 9, 2008
According to research company Decision Resources, the growth of a new class of medications for osteoarthritis, which treat the actual disease rather than the symptoms, could balloon from a $477 million market last year to nearly $4 billion by 2017.
With an aging population and few alternatives on the market, the approval of so-called "disease-modifying" prescription medications for osteoarthritis could move prescription drug sales into the same realm as asthma or type-2 diabetes, according to Amy Whiting, an analyst at the company.
"There is a huge population of osteoarthritis patients that are taking over-the-counter medication, Whiting tells Marketing Daily. "And there certainly is a large and growing number of osteoarthritis patients willing to pay--even out of pocket--for these medications, should they get approved."
According to the report, there are 37 million patients with osteoarthritis in the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan. Ninety-five percent of them are not currently receiving any sort of "disease-modifying" prescription treatment for their condition. With an aging population, diagnoses are expected to increase.
"This offers drug developers tremendous opportunities should they launch a safe and successful disease-modifying treatment," Whiting says. "Given the high prevalence of osteoarthritis, the potential earnings for disease-modifying agents would be significant."
Currently, osteoarthritis patients take medications that treat pain and other symptoms of the disease. But no medications have been approved that slow or prevent the disease, and studies of over-the-counter treatments such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are inconclusive, Whiting says. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, U.S. sales of glucosamine and chondroitin were $830 million in 2007, up 3.5% from the previous year.
"The fact that patients are willing to pay out of pocket for a [treatment] with unproven efficacy demonstrates the commercial potential for a disease-modifying agent with proven efficacy," Whiting says.
However, there are several disease-modifying therapies that could receive approval in the next few years. According to Whiting, Servier's Protelos could be approved by 2011, and off-label use of Novartis/Nordic Bioscience/Emisphere Technologies' yet-to-be approved SMC-021 could fuel the market.
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