Launching a drug? Be prepared to show it's cost-effective up front, consultant says

On the heels of Trinity Partners’ first medicines index, president John Corcoran said the biopharma industry can expect a continued focus on specialty drugs and drastically different drug launches in the years to come.

Trinity Partners president John Corcoran

Gone are the days of “brute force marketing” propelling new drugs to big sales, Corcoran told FiercePharma, with concepts such as “real-world evidence,” “outcomes,” “cost effectiveness,” and “health economics” expected to play a bigger role than ever moving forward.

Consultancy firm Trinity has been advising biopharma clients for 20 years and last week unveiled its 2016 Drug Index, a report that ranked the 22 drug launches from 2013 based on  “commercial success relative to therapeutic value and R&D effort.”

Gilead’s superstar hep C med Sovaldi ranked No. 1 in the index, followed by Johnson & Johnson/AbbVie’s blood cancer med Imbruvica and Biogen’s multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera. As a whole, specialty drugs with high price tags made their way to the top while cheaper primary care meds didn’t perform as well.

“The undercurrent … is that the days of true, brute force sales and marketing are pretty much gone from life sciences,” Corcoran said. “The current generation and future generations of products are not going to be sold on that basis.”

But drugmakers who place lofty stickers on their meds will increasingly be tasked with defending their high prices. These days, cost effectiveness concepts are “much more evident in the conversation now than at any point in the life” of the firm, he said.

The rankings come during a time of intense scrutiny on the industry’s pricing practices, a conversation that will likely continue following this month’s Republican sweep in the U.S. election.

As Corcoran sees it, one major factor expected to drive a “continued focus” on speciality pharma are the 6,800 rare diseases lacking any approved treatment. Together, they affect 30 million people in the U.S. and 360 million people around the world.

Another takeaway the firm noted is the value in having an established presence in a disease area. Celgene’s Pomalyst was cited as an “overachiever” in the rankings, and Corcoran said the company’s presence in multiple myeloma helped fuel that med’s performance.

“Celgene has done an excellent job in multiple myeloma, with multiple product offerings. The kind of strategy of successor products that leverage the knowledge base and physician base which you have already established … that’s probably why it’s performed so well.”

Trinity will update its drug index each year as a retrospective look back at drug launch classes, amending it along the way based on industry feedback.