New wave of HER2 meds to fuel huge leap in breast cancer market

HER2-positive breast cancer treatments already do pretty well for themselves, with Roche's ($RHHBY) Herceptin taking the No. 8 spot last year on the world's list of best-selling drugs. But according to a new report, their sales are about to jump--big time.

As research and consulting firm GlobalData sees it, the U.S. treatment market for HER2-positive drugs is set to leap threefold by 2023, surging from $2.41 billion last year to $7.95 billion.

"The rising incidence of HER2-positive breast cancer in the U.S., along with the significant use of premium-priced HER2-targeting therapies in all stages of the disease, particularly the neoadjuvant and adjuvant settings, has boosted sales of these drugs in the country," GD analyst Jamie Mallinson said in a statement.

Among the premium-priced new treatments is Roche's HER2-drug Perjeta, which recently won approval to treat patients before surgery--that is, in the neoadjuvant setting. That was a landmark decision by the FDA, and likely to boost its sales. Another potential sales boost: Earlier this week, new data showed that the drug, combined with Herceptin and chemo, helped women with advanced disease live 15.7 months longer than those treated with Herceptin and chemo alone.

The Affordable Care Act should also drive overall market expansion, Mallinson said, with a higher number of patients eligible for treatment with more expensive therapies.

But that top-line leap isn't a surefire thing--especially if pricing woes get in the way. As GD warned, increased cost consciousness could take its toll on payer reimbursement for drugs covered under Medicare Part D--read: all branded HER2-positive therapies.

"These cuts may encourage oncologists to prescribe alternatives to the more expensive HER2-targeting therapies, further hindering market expansion," Mallinson said.

Cost concerns have already taken their toll on Roche's Kadcyla in the U.K. Despite lobbying from breast cancer patients an advocacy groups--and a discount offer from the Swiss pharma--in August the country's cost-effectiveness gatekeeper, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, declared the drug too expensive to cover.

- read the release
- see PharmaTimes' take

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