Despite recent setbacks, the ophthalmology market still offers vast potential

Despite the ophthalmology market experiencing several research and development (R&D) setbacks during 2018, the launch of three new drugs highlights that the market still offers vast potential and will continue to attract substantial funds for R&D, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

A total of seven pipeline drugs were pulled from clinical development, three of which were being tested for macular degeneration: Ohr Pharmaceuticals’ squalamine, Roche’s lampalizumab, and Daiichi Sankyo’s DS-7080. In particular, the termination of the highly-anticipated lampalizumab was a major disappointment for the ophthalmology market as it was specifically targeting geographic atrophy, the late stage of dry age-related macular degeneration (dAMD).

Maura Musciacco, Director of Neurology & Ophthalmology at GlobalData, states: “The geographic atrophy segment still lacks approved therapies and arguably also represents the largest unmet need in the ophthalmology market. As lampalizumab was expected to reach blockbuster status, its termination was also a significant blow for Roche.”

Besides these drug-related developments, in June 2018 Novartis announced that it plans to spin off Alcon, its long-struggling eye care unit. This move may have been expected given that in recent years, Novartis has exited vaccines, sold its animal health business, and dropped its consumer health unit in an effort to focus on its core markets.

Additionally, in September the media circulated rumors that Takeda may shed Shire’s ophthalmology business after their mega-merger is completed in an effort to cut debts.

Musciacco concludes: “These challenges highlight the unique features of this market; including the fact the anatomy of the eye represents a challenge for R&D and ocular drug delivery. As such, the ophthalmology market has typically been associated as a small specialist field. Nevertheless, it is expected to see solid growth going forwards.”

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