Citation: “Interview: Aurelio Arias, IQVIA”. ONdrugDelivery Online, May 6, 2022
Mr Arias will be giving a talk at Pharmapack Europe, Paris, France, on May 18 at 10am. He would be pleased to see you there.
“Chronic diseases that have large patient populations and engagement, such as in respiratory and diabetes, have long been the first areas where self-administered devices have succeeded. However, more recently immunology, with a huge footprint and fierce competition between players has driven innovation in devices as a way to offer differentiation.”
Q To start, would you be able to provide a broad overview of the industry right now, and what are the predominant factors at play?
AA The engines of growth have stalled over the past couple of years due to the covid-19 pandemic. This was driven in part by a slowdown in the “dynamic market”, those of prescriptions for new medicines and medicine switches, thanks to a reticence by physicians to altering a patient’s treatment schedule without in-person consultation. Further slowing the overall industry, new launches remain sluggish as pharma companies struggle to reach physicians with meaningful interactions.
This represents a significant challenge for device and packaging manufacturers as this dynamic cohort represents the best opportunity to introduce innovative features in novel devices and packaging.
However, there are some positive growth opportunities that have materialised, namely a focus on homecare services, of which self-administered medicines plays a crucial part.
We have also noticed continued ambition to reduce the carbon footprint of medicines, which will increase the demand for greener devices and also a drive to facilitate the introduction of biosimilars, which will expand the number of players in the injectables sector.
Q There has been a lot of talk about self-administration – can you identify any therapy areas or treatment types where this has the potential to make the biggest impact?
AA The potential gains from self-administered medicines will affect therapy areas where there is a large preference for patients taking their medicine in a location of their choice or by relieving capacity constraints in strained hospitals and clinics. Chronic diseases that have large patient populations and engagement, such as in respiratory and diabetes, have long been the first areas where self-administered devices have succeeded. However, more recently immunology, with a huge footprint and fierce competition between players has driven innovation in devices as a way to offer differentiation. Testament to the size of this therapy area, immunology became the largest growth contributor in absolute terms at a global level recently.
Oncology, a powerhouse of innovation throughout the sector, is also making inroads into devices that can reduce the complexity of administration and allow patients to administer their medicines closer to home. In the future, however, some disease areas not usually associated with biologics will bring about new opportunities. Chronic pain management and in CNS are two segments we will see an increase in companion apps and in digital devices able to record a patient’s mental state of well-being passively.
Q How far off marrying the competing needs of connectivity and environmental concerns are we – i.e. newer devices tend not to be as recyclable?
AA It’s a complex question. One of the major challenges with connected and environmentally friendly devices are that they are simply not built with the right trade-offs in mind and fail to win mass-adoption – in part due to cost but also ability to manufacture at scale. This means that the best-in-class connected devices typically have niche markets and their carbon footprint, albeit large on an individual level, is small on a global one. However, the drive to increased connectivity should in theory give us a better idea of where and how devices are used, and this would allow for greater transparency in their carbon footprint. For example, if digital connectivity means that the patient can provide health readouts without having to travel to a hospital for a physical examination then that would reduce the footprint from a transport perspective. But this is all mostly conjecture until we get a good grip on the true emissions impact from the industry. Greater emphasis on measuring our carbon footprint will drive transparency and allow us to determine what areas need to be improved.
“The improvement of sensors that can generate medical grade data that is fit-for-purpose will be an important step in unlocking new ways of healthcare provision, and this might come into the market soon.”
Q What are the big growth areas in devices you see for the next year?
AA The improvement of sensors that can generate medical grade data that is fit-for-purpose will be an important step in unlocking new ways of healthcare provision, and this might come into the market soon. There is work that needs to be done in this space to provide trustworthy and actionable insights. No physician wants more work on their plate, rather the challenge, and riskiest from a liability perspective, is to provide recommendations to physicians to reduce the amount of time they need to interpret the data. Another immediate trend is that environmental sustainability will continue to increase, and corporations are beginning to set targets that will force them to partner with device manufacturers that can provide green products and services.
Q Do you think generational change will play a part in adoption – i.e. the millennials are starting to pass 40 and maybe much more willing to embrace personal data management and connectivity in treatments?
AA Yes, devices with digital components will have an easier time being adopted and trusted with less training, especially by young physicians. However, large patient segments, such as the elderly, still require an intuitive and foolproof device or they risk being alienated. This digital divide is an emerging challenge in our industry, and it will be important to be aware of this at the design stage. One of the best ways of circumventing this divide is to tap into existing digital means of communication, to retain familiarity and to make use of passive data acquisition and transmission, which reduces the burden on the patient.
Q Are there any geographic trends you think are worth noting?
AA Emerging markets are opening-up to the use of biologics through the introduction of biosimilar-friendly policies. Consequently, many countries with low current biologics usage will now need new cost-effective devices and packaging that fulfil their needs in areas where the likes of cold-chain integrity could pose a challenge.
Q Similarly, is the R&D pipeline changing the development of devices, either in terms of targets coming though or simply in terms of there being more money for start-ups to research more new device and delivery ideas?
AA Biotech start-ups are being funded at higher levels than ever before and they usually have single-asset portfolios leading to many small and well-funded players in the pipeline. They typically run very lean and specialised teams that rely on services to run their clinical and commercial operations. Many are looking to bring their products as innovative medicines in already crowded areas. As such, device and packaging manufacturers should look to align as strategic partners where they can provide services, advice and a high degree of customisation as part of their engagement. This will allow biotech companies to provide a differentiated product without having to always rely on large pharma for support.
Mr Arias’ session will take place on May 18, 2022, at 10am at Pharmapack Europe, Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles, Paris, France, and is available on-demand after the event has traded. Visit the event website, here.