Market access for immune-oncology products in the EU

By: Claes Buxfeldt, HTA Director at NDA Group

In this article, published in Volume 22 September 2020 of Pharmafocus, Claes Buxfeldt discusses key considerations in early development to succeed with market access for immune-oncology products in the EU.


Integrating market access considerations early into your development program saves money and the chances that your product will reach the market, or a premium at exit.

At NDA we work closely with development teams covering many disease areas. Reflective of the global pipeline, a large part of our time is spent helping clients with immune-oncology portfolios. Here we cover what activities should be considered in early development of new immune-oncology (IO) drugs to ultimately secure reimbursement or optimise the asset’s value. We also explore how IO treatments are different compared to other treatment options and important attributes to consider.

Background

Achieving regulatory approval by demonstrating your product’s appropriate benefit/risk profile is only one step to reach and treat patients. In many countries pricing and reimbursement bodies have additional requirements to be fulfilled. This includes demonstrating comparative effectiveness and value for money.

Immune-oncology (IO) therapies

Instead of targeting tumours directly, IO therapies engage the patient’s own immune system to stop them. This approach may offer a more effective treatment for some patients. Important characteristics of IO therapy include full tumour regression, often a more sustainable clinical outcome and improved health-related quality of life compared to standard chemotherapy. IO therapy often has a different side-effect profile and durability of response.

The development of targeted immune checkpoint inhibitors resulted in the first FDA approval in 2011 of Yervoy (ipilimumab – CTLA4 antibody) for melanoma. Additional studies of PD1/PDL1 antibodies have led to regulatory approval both as single agents and in combination with other agents. IO therapies are now approved by EMA and FDA in treating melanoma, lung, kidney, bladder, head and neck cancer.

Key distinctive features of IO therapies:
  • Immune-mediated mechanisms of action,
  • Significant and increased durability of response,
  • Unique kinetics enabling delayed response,
  • Potential for shorter treatment period,
  • Possibility of being “cured”,
  • Different, often more manageable, side-effect profiles,
  • Sometimes severe and systemic adverse effects,
  • Better health-related quality of life,
  • Flattening of the Kaplan Meier survival curve suggesting durable responses,
  • Administrated often in unique combinations of IO drugs.

Critical questions in developing IO therapies include targeting of those patients most likely to respond, combining IO therapies with other treatment options, mitigating related side-effects and reducing the resistance to therapies. How to practically use these therapies in an evolving health care environment and when to stop treatment are also important.

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