Takeda looks east for another Entyvio growth spurt

Takeda is on target to launch Entyvio in all remaining Asia-Pacific markets. (Takeda)

Takeda's inflammatory bowel disease treatment Entyvio has already been delivering blockbuster-plus sales, and the Japanese drugmaker sees fertile territory for more growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

With multiple approvals in the region and a growing incidence of IBD there, Takeda figures Entyvio has plenty of room to spread. And the company aims to run with it, not only by gaining share in previously untreated patients but in those who've stopped responding to older biologics, as well as by tapping the ideas behind a comic-book marketing campaign that won kudos in the U.S.

IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is much more prevalent in the Western world, but recent data show it's becoming a growing problem in Asia, with diagnosed cases zooming upward in the past decade. In a 2016 Q&A with the journal Gastroenterology & Hepatology, gastroenterologist Siew Ng, Ph.D., who led the Asia-Pacific Crohn’s and Colitis Epidemiology Study (ACCESS), said the trend in developing nations suggests an IBD link to westernization of lifestyle and industrialization.

Getting on the ground is the first step, of course. First approved in the U.S. and EU in 2014, Entyvio has now rolled out in Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and most recently in the Philippines. It is currently awaiting a decision on its new drug application in Japan and is undergoing phase 3 testing in China.

“Our goal is to first build awareness in the region as we work to improve IBD care and eventually bring Entyvio to all markets in a sustainable fashion,” Gordon Cameron, Takeda’s VP for Asia Pacific, recently told FiercePharma.

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But the med already faces heavy competition from TNF-alpha inhibitors, namely Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade and AbbVie’s Humira, which are also available in many Asian territories, and new classes of IBD treatments—such as JAK inhibitors and S1P1 inhibitors—are not far away.

Getting the word out to consumers is important, because patients must pay out-of-pocket for their drugs in many Asian markets, Cameron noted.

“The Asia-Pacific region is very different from the U.S. and European markets given the diversity we see in many of our healthcare systems, some of which are still evolving,” he said. “While some are mature, reimbursed markets, others are still largely out of pocket. In these countries, our aim is to build awareness, support efforts that aid in diagnosis as well as access.”

As the only gut-selective biologic for IBD, Entyvio specifically inhibits the migration of the T lymphocytes responsible for inflammatory activity in the gut wall. Sales of Entyvio for the nine months ended last December reached 149.5 billion yen ($1.4 billion), representing year-on-year growth of 45.5%, Takeda reported.

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Entyvio is steadily gaining market share in patients who've never before been treated with biologic meds, but it could also see more action among those who are no longer responding to anti-TNF treatments, Takeda said.

“Literature suggests that 50%-60% of anti-TNF treated patients will have not responded or lost response within one year, which provides a large opportunity for drugs based on new mechanisms,” Leerink Partners’ Geoffrey Porges recently said.

Takeda has the help of some successful marketing tools to thank, most notably the Marvel-partnered IBD Superheroes comics campaign. The IBD awareness project was recognized by the industry and won our #FierceMadness DTC advertising tournament last year.

“The association with Marvel helped us increase the awareness of the disease across markets globally,” said Cameron. Even though Takeda recently wrapped up the comic book story, Cameron said the company has adapted the concept internally and is "creating fresh content as we continue to spread awareness in Asia.”