by Mona Jhaveri - September 24, 2021

The commercialization of cancer treatment happens when pharmaceutical manufacturers develop cancer treatments that are for sale. The pharmaceutical companies must work with the FDA and other regulatory bodies to prove their product works and is safe before selling it commercially.

The decision to commercialize often stems from the desire to make money, but this profit motive may come at the expense of patient care if price-gouging occurs.

This blog post will discuss what it means to commercialize cancer treatment, how it happens, and why it’s essential to keep an eye out for potential pricing issues.

What is drug commercialization?

Developing a new drug is incredibly complex and expensive. The process can take an average of 15 years and cost upwards of one billion dollars. The majority of these costs are associated with  clinical trials that test new drugs’ effectiveness and safety profile.

However, once a drug is developed and deemed ready for use, another set of challenges presents itself – successfully launching the treatment and ensuring its continued use. 

Simply put, the commercialization of cancer treatment is the process of ensuring that new cancer treatment is accessible to those who need it and profitable for those who produce it.

If the public doesn’t know about or isn’t willing to use the medication as prescribed, all the hard work of new treatment research is wasted. The commercialization process includes educating the public and enlisting their help in spreading awareness and setting up an infrastructure for distribution. The drug’s effectiveness and safety profile must also be monitored to ensure that it meets quality standards.

Placing Patients At The Center

First and foremost, the patients need to be informed of the new treatment or drug available. In the process of commercialization, spreading information about the new drug is crucial.

The media can be a powerful tool because traditional media always looks for stories to tell, and cancer treatments make great headlines. The more people know about it, the better chance someone will try it who might not have otherwise done so.

Innovators, researchers, and providers must ensure that this line of information is easily accessible – cancer patients should not have to search far and wide for it. The information needs to be honed in on each individual and their specific health care needs.

Communication with patients about the new treatment should happen in a way that is understandable. It should be transparent – whether it’s about the side effects of taking the drug, how much money will go towards funding this new treatment, or other information pertinent to patients who may not understand all the medical jargon involved with cancer treatments.

Some people believe the marketing of cancer treatment will help give people more options for what remedies they can pursue. The idea is that there should not only be one path for every patient but a variety so patients can find their best way to fight their disease.

Building Partnerships and Alliances

Releasing a new treatment or drug and getting it accepted by the public is a difficult task. One of the best ways to get the word out about this new treatment is by building partnerships and alliances with different organizations such as hospitals, other pharmaceutical companies, medical companies, individual physicians, etc.

The more people know about the new drug, the more likely it is that they will ask their healthcare provider about it. This could lead to increased use and sales and, in turn, a company can get back their money for researching and developing this drug. The FDA also requires partnerships with other organizations to test clinical trials of new cancer drugs.

Partnerships with experts in the field also help generate buzz around the new cancer drugs because people trust these individuals for providing information about the products they’re endorsing.

The commercialization of cancer treatment is not that different from marketing a new consumer product.

Securing Finances for Commercialization

Marketing a new treatment happens to be almost just as expensive as developing it. The most significant hurdle for many biotech companies is raising the necessary funds to commercialize their cancer treatment drug.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that philanthropic organizations and governments mainly fund basic discovery research. In contrast, late-stage development and commercialization are funded by pharmaceutical companies and venture capitalists.

Here are common funding resources for biotech products in development:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • State governments
  • S.-based foundations
  • Department of Health and Human Services’ Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs
  • Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs)
  • State-based funding
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Venture capitalists

Challenges of Oncology Product Commercialization

In oncology, there is a set of challenges that every new product faces. Each of these challenges might lead to an effective treatment being pulled from the market, despite helping the selected few patients. 

  • High Competition – While this may sound like a good thing for patients given that there are many treatment options on the market, pharmaceutical companies and investors have difficulty making a profit. The market is so competitive that companies are more afraid to invest in research and development because they know their time and money will likely develop products that do not make it into the marketplace. This is especially true for underserved cancers, such as liver, renal, and bladder cancers.
  • Complex Audience – Pharma sales representatives regularly bombard oncology experts with new drug data. The sheer amount of information they are asked to process makes it difficult for doctors and other cancer care professionals to distinguish between different approaches and features. A massive amount of data is competing for their attention. The result is that the latest oncology developments are often never acted upon, and new cancer treatments remain unavailable or underused.
  • Combination Therapies – Certain well-established therapeutics are deeply entrenched in cancer care. Oncologists can be reluctant to change to a newer, more complex drug because of the time and expense of changing treatment plans. Therefore, innovators are forced to try and combine their brand new drug with one of the entrenched drugs. The result is the need for building clinical development strategies that are incredibly complex. The complexity of these drug combinations also contributes to the high cost of cancer care and an increased risk for adverse events.
  • Changes in Pricing – Targeted therapies are expensive. The high price tag per patient has led to consolidation within the pharmaceutical industry and increased demand for cancer drugs from public payers. At the same time, payers are looking to cut costs wherever they can. The price of cancer drugs has been reduced in some cases, but many oncologists are still afraid to prescribe cutting-edge treatments for fear they won’t be reimbursed or have their payment lowered.

Conclusion

Even though the last decade was abundant in discoveries and the much-welcomed rise of immunotherapy, the commercialization of cancer treatments is still lagging.

The main challenges of oncology commercialization include complex target audiences, difficulty breaking through the noise of new drug launches, the need to combine new therapies with existing ones, and similar.

Additionally, oncology groups, payers, patients, doctors, and politicians have criticized the pharmaceutical industry for their high prices, making treatment unaffordable to many people who need it most.

The commercialization of cancer treatment is a complex process that has no definite end. The treatments available today have all been developed over time, and it’s unlikely there will be any single solution offered in the near future. After all, cancer is not just one disease. It is a hundred different diseases with their own set of genetic mutations, physiological responses, and environmental factors.

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