Market, R&D

What’s the trouble with pain? Analysis shows scarce investments, high failure rate for new drugs

Pain may be one of the biggest market opportunities in drug R&D, but it’s been relatively neglected compared to hot fields like oncology or even cardio.

That’s the conclusion of a new market analysis from BIO, which found that the success rate in clinical development for pain is right at 2% — one of the worst now on the radar and far below their 10% average.

Picking over the numbers, BIO’s analysts concluded that the category accounts for $635 billion in healthcare costs, the kind of figure that developers usually find powerfully attractive.

But, they add, the industry has scored only two novel therapeutic approvals for pain drugs over the past decade. Meanwhile there are 125 novel chemical entities in the clinic — 87% non-opioid, where the unmet medical need is most obvious —which is just a fraction of the new cancer drugs out there.

Another topical figure that jumps out: Pain gets $1 for every $17 invested in oncology drugs. And BIO counts only 15 addiction drugs in the pipeline: “10 for substance abuse, two for alcohol, and three for smoking cessation.”

The lack of investment here won’t surprise anyone in the business, though. Pain meds have been one of the most frustrating targets in CNS, a field plagued by high placebo responses over the years. Given the high failure rates, investors have been taught to stay away unless a developer can prove it can navigate some tough odds. And where there is progress, you’ll find lots of competition, as we can see for the two leading pain targets: CGRP and NGF.

Also, if you look at their chart on venture investing overall in the US, cancer handily beats out everything they chart. Oncology has been seeing rising success rates with new combos and blockbuster opportunities.

Source: BIO

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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