After decades of symptomatic treatments and grim inevitabilities for patients and their families, a Neu-renaissance is upon us – Pharma is back in Neuro in a big way with new mechanisms of action, new delivery modalities, and a new appetite for risk. Even with the most conservative estimates and taking into account the traditionally higher failure rate of Neuroscience medicines, the next decade could still see dozens of innovative neurological medicines enter the market. While this represents a big win for Pharma and patients alike, it raises the question:
Will a health system designed for old-world neurology drugs be able readily transition to new-age therapies?
The answer may not be a simple “yes” – at least not right away. Given the traditional perceived futility of many neurological conditions, the complex diagnostic, monitoring, and treatment infrastructure required for the ongoing management of these disorders may have been overlooked. Neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s require complex imaging to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. A poignant example can be found in Alzheimer’s where high patient volumes, need for frequent MRIs, and PET imaging for diagnosis created a “perfect storm” of access barriers for patients, contributing to Biogen’s troubled Aduhelm launch.
Not only are resources spread thin, people are too. The advent of novel neurological therapies will mean that staffing and care models for patients will have to change. For example, infusion care nurses will be required to administer IV drugs, emergency departments may need to amend protocols to manage treatment-related complications, and the disciplines of neuroradiology and neurosurgery will likely require a workforce boost. Evidently, launching a new Neuroscience medicine requires a paradigm shift in care models.
What can Pharma do to ensure a successful Neuroscience launch?
To fully reap the benefits of incoming Neuroscience therapeutics, Pharma could strive to alleviate potential bottlenecks ahead of launch. For instance, as they prepare for a potential Alzheimer’s launch next year, Eli Lilly are hiring Alzheimer’s Diagnostics Consultants to assist HCPs in navigating the imaging process for their patients. Through a local grant programme, Novartis helped expand access to newborn screening for Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Canada, identifying likely patients for Zolgensma. These initiatives demonstrate the fact that in Neuroscience, market development should go hand-in-hand with clinical development. Market building tactics to reinforce the diagnostic and treatment infrastructure will serve improve patient experience and achieve more rapid and streamlined adoption of long-awaited (and needed) innovative Neuro therapies.