COX-2 inhibitors to propel pain market

October 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

The worldwide market for pain management therapeutics is expected to grow from $22 billion in 2000 to $30 billion in 2007, according to "Pain Management: A Strategic Market Analysis," a new report from Foster City, CA-based Front Line Strategic Management Consulting Inc.

The worldwide market for pain management therapeutics is expected to grow from $22 billion in 2000 to $30 billion in 2007, according to "Pain Management: A Strategic Market Analysis," a new report from Foster City, CA-based Front Line Strategic Management Consulting Inc.

According to the report, the strong market growth that began in 1998 and stemmed from the introduction of Celebrex™ (celecoxib), co-promoted by New York-based Pfizer Inc. and Peapack, NJ-based Pharmacia Corp., and Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck and Co. Inc.'s Vioxx® (rofecoxib tablets) will stabilize at 4.4% over the next six years. This growth rate will be sustained by yearly world population increases and the pain management needs of a large population of seniors.

In the short term, the report claims that the pain category will be led by NSAIDs such as Celebrex and Vioxx, but their sales will likely be affected by the launch of second-generation COX-2 inhibitors currently in development.

The pain management marketplace is following the trend of the overall pharmaceutical industry, in which growth is driven by blockbuster mega-brands, according to Front Line. Consequently, successful strategies in pain management will utilize elements of the blockbuster strategy, namely, garnering increases in utilization, as well as commanding a price premium.

New opportunities

According to the report, the key to determining whether a new drug launched in the pain category will become a blockbuster or not is its ability to address unmet needs.

It is estimated that approximately 85 million people worldwide suffer from chronic pain, and an additional 193 million suffer from acute pain. Unlike chronic pain, acute pain is currently well-controlled through the use of NSAIDs and narcotics. Even so, a large portion of episodes of acute musculoskeletal, visceral and intermittent pain are not treated by a physician.

This presents a clear opportunity for new drugs in the development pipeline. Front Line estimates the emerging market for pain to reach nearly $2 billion in 2007. Most of the drugs in development are in early stages, and history has shown that only 20% of neuropharmacological drugs that enter phase I trials are eventually brought to market.

In the meantime, physicians are turning to other classes of drugs in their search for treatment of chronic pain that has failed to respond to conventional analgesics. Currently, tricyclic antidepressants and anticonvulsants are the most frequently prescribed adjuvant therapies. PR