Oncology

Pricing a new oncology agent across multiple indications

If the patients are sick enough, the theory goes, you can charge a lot for your drug.  How much of a difference your drug makes also matters.

Consider an immuno-oncology agent to be added to the current standard of care in each of the four indications listed in Table 1.  The assumed clinical attributes for the new combination regimens are shown.  They include changes in median overall survival (adding 8 months), median time to progression (adding 4 months), response rates, safety/tolerability and dosing.

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Applying our analytics, we can quantify the disease burden (mortality and morbidity) and the degree of improvement offered in each patient population. This allows an informed comparison with recent successful launches, and we can thus calculate the US WAC “normative price” for the added agent in each target population (second row in Table 2), based on the value delivered.

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The normative prices for the new drug are translated into implied prices per cycle (third row), which in this example range from $2,500 to $11,700. 

These results allow the team to assess the opportunities and inform the clinical and commercial development strategy.  For instance, with a normative price of $63,100 and a large patient population, 2nd line CRC has high revenue potential (this tool also estimates peak-year patient share and revenue).  If this agent’s price were set at its CRC normative per-cycle price ($3,100), then it would also be seen as appropriately priced in 2nd line ovarian, but it would be somewhat expensive in 1st line melanoma, likely leading to downward pricing pressure and a greater likelihood of access limitations there.  It would however be underpriced in 2nd line head and neck cancer (normative = $11,700), leaving money on the table in that smaller population. 

We have used this framework to help clients evaluate pricing potential for new oncology and hematology drugs across as many as 25 candidate indications for a given asset.  Naturally, other factors affect how indications are prioritized: probability of technical success, strategic fit, and the length and cost of late-stage clinical trials.  Having a sound analysis of pricing potential can make for better development decisions, including not only which indications but also which combinations to pursue.    

Contact Equinox Group to see more details about this application of our tools.

Calquence: The price is right

Conclusion: Our Cost vs. Benefit analysis indicates that Calquence is appropriately priced.

Calquence offers moderate clinical benefit compared to Imbruvica, the standard of care in relapsed/refractory mantle cell lymphoma. Calquence delivers a solid efficacy improvement, the effects of which flow through to improved mortality and morbidity. Combine these factors with somewhat favorable side effects and only slightly worse convenience and Calquence makes for a solid upgrade from Imbruvica. Calquence charges about $170,000/ year (WAC price) compared to Imbruvica’s $157,000. Given its level of clinical benefit, it is appropriately priced.

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Our Cost vs. Benefit tool allows us to plot Calquence within a historical data set of new oncology drugs that have achieved favorable market access. Incremental cost is plotted along the y-axis and clinical benefit along the x-axis. Our historical data set shows a clear relationship between clinical benefit and cost, forming a cloud of data points. In general, drugs that fall within this cloud are priced appropriately given the level of clinical benefit they offer. Calquence lands just barely above the cloud, which means given the level of clinical benefit it provides, it may have been able to warrant a slightly higher price, but is well within the range of historical analogs.

In relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Calquence has shown promising 12 month data, but these data are not yet sufficiently mature to allow us to estimate its clinical benefit in that population. We will update our analyses as more mature data becomes available.

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How to Price an Oncology Drug

It is widely agreed that drugs should be priced to reflect their value, or clinical benefit.  But how does one measure clinical benefit?  Equinox Group uses a proven method to quantify clinical benefit, derived from our deep experience in assessing unmet medical need.

A new drug’s proposed cost (on Y-axis, inverted scale) should align with its promised clinical benefit (on X-axis) to place it in the “cloud” of successful recent launches.

A new drug’s proposed cost (on Y-axis, inverted scale) should align with its promised clinical benefit (on X-axis) to place it in the “cloud” of successful recent launches.

Locating clinical benefit on a specific scale allows us to examine how benefit is related to drug price in many recent launches that have gained good market access. Our analysis of drugs that have achieved favorable market access shows a clear relationship between cost and benefit. That observation allows us to advise companies on appropriate pricing for their emerging oncology agents.

Our measure of clinical benefit reflects efficacy, safety/tolerability and dosing, and how efficacy affects disease burden – mortality, morbidity, and cost. 

We can model the expected attributes of a new agent against the background of disease burden in a specific patient population to test the clients’ desired price for the asset.   We can plot the results on the graph above to determine if the new drug falls within “the cloud” of successful agents.  If it does, the drug will most likely achieve favorable market access at the desired price. If not, a rethinking of the pricing strategy may be called for. Our analysis can be applied to the US and each of the five major EU countries, and the same framework can deliver estimates of peak-year patient share and revenue.

Clinical benefit and drug cost vary by patient segment because of duration of treatment, disease seriousness, and a host of other factors, so we analyze each target indication separately. That way, agents with potential in multiple populations can be analyzed in each indication to find the optimizing price for the asset across the board. 

Imbruvica: Closing the window of opportunity in CLL

Conclusion: Imbruvica (ibrutinib) delivers profound improvements in efficacy and outcomes in first-line chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL); as a result it virtually eliminates the opportunity for developmental agents to offer significant Clinical Innovation in this indication.

The key data supporting the March 2016 label expansion granted to Imbruvica (ibrutinib) for the first-line treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are dramatic: 98% progression-free survival at 18 months and 90% survival at 24 months (RESONATE-2 trial). Regardless of the standard of care to which we compare Imbruvica, it represents dramatic innovation, changing a feared malignancy into a mostly manageable chronic disease, much as Gleevec (imatinib) did in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) more than a decade ago. The waterfall chart compares Imbruvica to chlorambucil, reflecting RESONATE-2 data.

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The implications for companies developing drugs targeted at CLL are profound:

  • It will be virtually impossible to deliver significant Clinical Innovation beyond what Imbruvica appears to offer; the only remaining significant unmet need targets are safety/tolerability and cost (see schema figure below).

  • It will become difficult to recruit first-line patients for clinical trials when as attractive a treatment option as Imbruvica is available, and the trial duration needed to show equivalence to Imbruvica begins to look onerous in relation to the opportunity.

  • At the same time, relapsed/refractory CLL becomes a much less attractive commercial target. By pushing out progression from first line for years, Imbruvica will radically reduce the number of treatable patients available at second and third lines during the next 5-10 years.

  • With CLL joining CML, hepatitis C viral infection, and multiple myeloma as serious diseases that can now be more or less cured with drugs, price will become a more important factor in product selection. Agents no better clinically than Imbruvica in CLL or Harvoni in HCV will need to accept lower prices, whether directly or through contracting, to capture much market share.

Since Imbruvica has reduced unmet medical need so dramatically, companies with competing drugs targeting CLL in Phase II or earlier must rethink their development strategies, redirecting resources to other cancer targets.

This figure shows the domains of medical need in first line CLL. The gold bars reflect how well ibrutinib satisfies need in each domain. The grey area above the gold bar shows the extent of opportunity for improvement for developmental agents. We derive ibrutinib’s values by transforming clinical data to dimensionless index scores between 0 (no need―e.g., perfect efficacy) and 5 (no satisfaction of need―e.g., no efficacy). The transformation functions are consistent across indications, and domain analyses are built up from detailed sub-analyses.    The interpretation for ibrutinib in CLL is that little opportunity remains for improving efficacy, convenience, mortality, or morbidity. The only remaining opportunity for meaningful improvement is in safety/tolerability. The high level of need in the cost domain is driven by high drug cost (which is warranted, given the magnitude of clinical benefit).

This figure shows the domains of medical need in first line CLL. The gold bars reflect how well ibrutinib satisfies need in each domain. The grey area above the gold bar shows the extent of opportunity for improvement for developmental agents. We derive ibrutinib’s values by transforming clinical data to dimensionless index scores between 0 (no need―e.g., perfect efficacy) and 5 (no satisfaction of need―e.g., no efficacy). The transformation functions are consistent across indications, and domain analyses are built up from detailed sub-analyses.

The interpretation for ibrutinib in CLL is that little opportunity remains for improving efficacy, convenience, mortality, or morbidity. The only remaining opportunity for meaningful improvement is in safety/tolerability. The high level of need in the cost domain is driven by high drug cost (which is warranted, given the magnitude of clinical benefit).

Keytruda: Exceptional early results in a small colorectal cancer population

Conclusion: Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is highly efficacious in a subset of colorectal cancer patients that are heavily pretreated, have metastatic disease, and have mismatch repair deficiency. Despite a very high price for a course of therapy, the clinical results overwhelmingly favor pembrolizumab’s use over best supportive care in this subpopulation.

Results were recently published of Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in metastatic colorectal cancer patients who had been treated with a median of four prior therapies. In such a sick and heavily pretreated patient population, it would not be expected that any therapy would make a significant difference, and for most colorectal cancer patients that is the case. However, for a low single-digit percentage of them who are mismatch repair-deficient, pembrolizumab is highly effective. Limited Phase II data show a clinically significant overall response rate, along with exceptionally promising trends in progression-free survival and overall survival. Despite a steep $350,000 pre-discount price for a 20-week course of therapy, the percent reduction in unmet medical need is a highly innovative 35%.

We project that Keytruda will extend median overall survival by 1 to 2 years as opposed to the handful of months to be expected with best supportive care. Survival data in the mismatch repair-proficient population were not nearly as impressive, with clinical performance probably not sufficient to offset the price. We expect pembrolizumab will achieve a label in mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancer, and will become the standard of care. Furthermore, we expect pembrolizumab will eventually be used in earlier lines of therapy, and testing for mismatch repair deficiency will become far more common.

Blincyto: High price for an undifferentiated drug

Conclusion: Amgen’s Blincyto (blinatumomab) shows minimal efficacy and tolerability gains over older multi-drug induction regimens, yet it is priced at around $200,000 for a full course of treatment. If the company succeeds in expanding the drug’s label, it is likely to face pressure to lower the price significantly unless it can show considerably more clinical improvement in those expanded patient populations.

In December 2014, the FDA approved Blincyto (blinatumomab) for 2nd line treatment of a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The addressable patient population is so small that Blincyto usually wouldn’t have drawn much attention, but it has been in the headlines due to its steep price. The drug is priced in line with other ultra-orphan drugs. But Blincyto doesn’t deliver the step-change in efficacy that other six-figure drugs have brought to the table. Before Blincyto’s approval, induction was carried out using various multi-drug regimens. Some are better than others, but none had become a universal therapeutic choice.

Blincyto does have an efficacy advantage over all of the multi-drug regimens, but it is incremental in most cases. Blincyto also has a slight side effect advantage, and it is likely more convenient for the infusion centers to dose (patients might not notice much of a difference). For all these advantages, Blincyto’s improvement in Clinical Innovation, or percent reduction in unmet medical need, is more than offset by its huge price, which is roughly an order of magnitude more than that of the multi-drug regimens. Blincyto is currently being trialed in larger ALL patient populations, as well as the largest subset of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients. We expect there will be much more pressure on the drug price if Blincyto is able to gain a label in a larger patient population.

PD-1 Inhibitors: Strong starts in three indications

PD-1 inhibitors are the newest class of immunotherapy drugs approved for cancer.  They have a unique mechanism of action and debuted in the market for melanoma amid great promise.  Like Avastin (bevacizumab) before them, PD-1 inhibitors have labels in multiple cancers and are in late-stage trials in many more.  The data for Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab) in both melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) clearly demonstrate that PD-1 inhibitors represent a major advance in cancer therapy.    Equinox Group will monitor this area and update our analyses as more clinical data becomes available. Below we focus on Opdivo in several tumor types.

Opdivo in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC):

Opdivo has a label for previously treated advanced squamous NSCLC where the standard of care (SOC) has been docetaxel.  Opdivo has superior efficacy compared to docetaxel in all measures: median overall survival, median progression-free survival, overall response rate, as well as a better side effect profile.  Docetaxel’s generic pricing is approximately $3,000 for a 2nd line NSCLC course of therapy, whereas Opdivo has a branded price of approximately $46,000 for a course of therapy in the same indication. Based on historical comparison, Equinox Group concludes that Opdivo’s clinical performance in this population is worth the price premium.  Opdivo will replace docetaxel as the SOC, and should achieve good patient share in NSCLC.

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Opdivo in malignant melanoma:

Opdivo was approved as both a monotherapy in later-line melanoma and in combination with Yervoy (ipilimumab) in 1st line melanoma.  In the 1st line setting, the Opdivo + Yervoy combination has a strong 14.6% Clinical Innovation score (or percent reduction in unmet medical need), over the combination of Mekinist (trametinib) + Tafinlar (dabrafenib); it offers better efficacy, side effects, mortality, and morbidity.  While the Opdivo + Yervoy combination has a disadvantage in dosing and higher drug costs, the superior efficacy of the antibodies is decisive.  We therefore expect the Yervoy + Opdivo combination to become the new SOC.  Complete data on a Zelboraf (vemurafenib) and cobimetanib combination in 1st line melanoma will be reported soon.  When that data becomes publicly available we will update this analysis and post our findings here.

Opdivo in 2nd line renal cell carcinoma (RCC):

Opdivo has not yet been approved in 2nd line RCC, but we anticipate its approval based on its superior efficacy over the current SOC.  Opdivo also has a better side effect profile than Afinitor (everolimus), with its only disadvantages being a less convenient dosing regimen and a slightly higher price.  Upon launch, we predict that Opdivo will become the new SOC, and will achieve strong patient share in this population, given its 8.0% Clinical Innovation score.

Avastin: One molecule in multiple cancers

Overview: Avastin (bevacizumab) was the first anti-angiogenesis oncology drug. When it launched in 2004, it was thought that Avastin had virtually limitless potential to be highly effective in a wide range of cancers.  More than a decade later, we know that Avastin competed well in some indications, but not others.  The level of Clinical Innovation Avastin offers in each of these populations correlates well with the level of commercial success the agent has achieved respectively across indications.

Note: Bubble size reflects size of the patient population

Note: Bubble size reflects size of the patient population

The graphic above compares Avastin in multiple oncology indications for three criteria – level of Clinical Innovation, size of the patient population, and level of unmet medical need.  The X axis shows the level of Clinical Innovation Avastin offers in each population; indications right of 0% have positive Clinical Innovation, and those on the left of 0% have negative Clinical Innovation. For instance, Avastin has strong Clinical Innovation (9.2%) in 1st line colorectal cancer. At the other extreme, in 1st line pancreatic cancer, its Clinical Innovation is negative; Avastin never received a label in this population.

 

The size of the bubble reflects the size of that patient population, and the Y axis reflects the level of medical need (most of these cancer indications have relatively high medical need). Mechanisms with potential in multiple patient segments, such as PD-1 inhibitors, can be assessed in similar ways, given hypotheses for the clinical characteristics of the drug in each of the target populations.  This is useful information to inform the prioritization of indications for development. Below we provide more detail comparing Avastin in two of its labeled indications.

Avastin in colorectal cancer:

In 2004, Avastin was approved in 1st line colorectal cancer as an add-on to the standard of care (SOC) FOLFOX6.

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There is a strong efficacy advantage in combining Avastin with FOLFOX6 in this population. The improvement in median overall survival (mOS) results in mortality gains; these benefits more than offset the increased cost of adding Avastin to the regimen.  The Avastin combination regimen has Clinical Innovation of 9.2% which is good and should therefore become the SOC, which is exactly what occurred.  

 

Avastin in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC):

Avastin was approved in 1st line NSCLC in 2006, based on a trial in which it was added to a paclitaxel + carboplatin regimen.  However, our analytical framework shows that the paclitaxel+ carboplatin regimen is inferior to a cisplatin + gemcitabine regiment, and therefore this latter regimen should be considered the SOC.  When we analyze the trial data of gemcitabine + cisplatin with and without Avastin, the Clinical Innovation for the Avastin combination is only 0.4% (“undifferentiated” by our rule of thumb); the efficacy gains are insufficient to offset the increased side effects and drug costs associated with adding Avastin to the gemcitabine combination regimen.  This finding explains why Avastin has had low market penetration in this population. 

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Kyprolis: A rapid rise in a crowded market

Kyprolis (carfilzomib) was granted accelerated FDA approval in July 2012 for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Its recently completed Phase III ASPIRE trial shows even better efficacy. Based on these newly reported clinical data, Kyprolis is highly innovative, as measured in Equinox Group’s framework, and we expect robust sales growth in the future.

The Drivers of Improvement chart shows a strong efficacy advantage in adding Kyprolis to lenalidomide + dexamethasone. The improvements in median overall survival, median progression-free survival, and overall response rate, along with the associated mortality and morbidity gains, more than offset the disadvantages of adding an intravenous therapy to an oral regimen, the increased side effects, and the additional costs. The Clinical Innovation of 14.5% indicates that Kyprolis in combination with lenalidomide + dexamethasone will become the standard of care for patients with multiple myeloma who have been treated with 1-3 prior therapies.