Characterized by complexities and breakthroughs, the 2020 life sciences industry trends reflect the industry’s continuous momentum in the innovation of novel therapies and operational excellence. Despite pressure from vociferous stakeholders and scrutinizing legislative bodies, 2019 saw exponential growth in treatment capabilities and health management avenues across the board.
Challenges remain as 2020 brings heavier regulatory and commercial pressures. Debates over opiates, drug pricing, and expensive immunotherapies make it imperative for leaders to reconcile market success with patient-centricity, while portfolio diversification requires strategic planning through patents and supply chain challenges. In navigating these obstacles, digital solutions and novel breakthroughs can allow companies to recoup customer trust, embrace efficient supply chains, and enjoy cost-effective paths to market.
Here, we explore these and other trends in depth as they work to shape the life sciences industry in 2020. Leveraging extensive industry expertise, we aim to highlight the areas where leaders can harness opportunities as the year unfolds.
Administrative Eyes Continue to Scrutinize Drug Prices
Numerous federal policy proposals cast a cloud over the industry in 2019, and while few are credible threats, each added kindling to ever-fervent drug pricing debates. In April 2019, the state of Colorado enacted HB 19-1131, which requires companies to share the “sticker” prices of marketed drugs with prescribing doctors in an effort to improve the patient-provider relationship. The SPIKE Act (H.R. 2069) and the FAIR Drug Pricing Act (S.1391), proposed in spring 2019, stipulate that drug companies should not only notify congressional bodies of impending price increases, but also submit documentation to justify increases over a certain threshold.
Looking forward, drug pricing remains a bipartisan issue for the 2020 presidential candidates. Republican candidate President Trump supported a plan this year to import Canadian drugs for U.S. citizens at a lower price point. On the Democratic side, Sen. Warren, former Vice President Biden, Sen. Harris, and Pete Buttigieg have each voiced support of drug price negotiation for government programs, while Bernie Sanders is in strong favor of Trump’s importation efforts.
Most imminently, in September 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced a draft plan that would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate price points with drug companies and apply these prices to both Medicare/Medicaid and the private market, as well as enforce stiff profit penalties for companies that refuse to negotiate. Despite the ferocity of this potential legislation, the system will remain flexible so innovative and novel therapies can protect premium price points.
Pricing Methods for Expensive Cell and Gene Therapies
But the debate around pricing extends further, going beyond traditional drugs to cover increasingly expensive cell and gene therapies. Payment options for these therapies are undergoing a paradigm shift, as the current pricing structure poses issues for nearly every stakeholder. Currently, high price points disincentivize insurers from covering such therapies as debates over lifetime savings and treatment efficacy drive a disconnect between patients and treatments. As this sparks discussion over outcomes-based arrangements, immunotherapy leaders can explore novel pricing structures such as crowdfunding, pay-over-time, and subscription models to bridge the gap between their treatments and the patients they serve.
Repairing the Road to Chronic Pain Management
2019 saw landmark rulings in the global opioid crisis, highlighting medication abuse as the central issue—and that the need for pain management is more pressing than ever. Johnson & Johnson had to shell out millions after a ruling in August, and in September Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the company settled thousands of lawsuits. It’s unclear whether justice-oriented headlines will stagnate; however, the industry begins turning to novel and innovative ways to manage pain to both mitigate abuse and address chronic need.
Addiction treatments are on the rise, and medical marijuana continues to strengthen its foothold as an alternative pain treatment. The global medicinal cannabinoid market is projected to exceed $40B by 2024, posing a massive new treatment arm for varying medical conditions, even going beyond pain management. There are, however, vast impacts on regulatory and payer systems as cannabis and its by-products remain federally regulated as DEA Class I drugs. As federal legalization efforts slowed over 2019, state-specific and global initiatives remain the key to this market’s continued expansion.