October 04, 2017

BLU-5937: Assessing Market Potential for the Treatment of Chronic Cough

An abridged version of the market assessment discussed in this blog is available on BELLUS Health’s website. Click here.

There are three things that cannot be hidden, according to an old Yiddish proverb: coughing, poverty and love. We’ve all known someone who has difficulty carrying on a conversation due to coughing; we have all sat in the movie theater behind the man who can’t stop coughing and we have all nervously wondered if the retch-inducing cough is due to some contagious disease. The physical manifestations of chronic cough, such as vomiting, urinary incontinence and fatigue due to sleep deprivation are further compounded by the psycho-social consequences interfering with lifestyle and leisure. Too often, these manifestations of chronic cough lead to social withdrawal which, for more than half of chronic cough patients, results in clinical depression1.

Yet, despite the clear need for new and effective medications, there has not been a new therapy approved for the treatment of chronic cough in more than 60 years. Current treatment options are either wholly inadequate or have significant side effects, leading many to believe that the treatment itself is as bad as the condition it seeks to treat.

BLU-5937: Large Addressable Patient Population in a Favorable Pricing Environment

At BELLUS Health we are developing BLU-5937, a potent, highly selective, orally bioavailable small molecule antagonist of the P2X3 receptor, a clinically validated target for chronic cough. BLU-5937 is a promising best-in-class drug candidate that has the potential to help millions of chronic cough patients who do not respond to current therapies. 

In our effort to better understand the market potential for BLU-5937, we commissioned Torreya Partners to help us conduct a market assessment through an evaluation of chronic cough epidemiology and pricing estimates. Based on primary and secondary research, the report concludes that, in the United States alone, more than 26 million adults suffer from chronic cough, defined simply as a cough that lasts more than eight weeks. More that 2.6 million of these patients have chronic cough that lasts for more than a year, meaning they have tried every treatment available to them, without success. The number of treatment-refractory chronic cough patients expands to 11.7 million when taking into account those patients with a cough duration between eight weeks and one year.

The market assessment also sought to better understand the pricing and reimbursement landscape for a condition that has no recently-approved therapies, and therefore no direct comparables. Based on interviews with Key Opinion Leaders, prescribing physicians and payers, the consensus is that new chronic cough treatments, such as BLU-5937, will be priced similarly to drugs for chronic constipation, asthma and partial onset seizures. These analogs represent non-lethal chronic conditions that have a significant impact on quality of life and address a large patient population in competitive markets that also include generic and over-the-counter products. The monthly price for these analogs varies between $300 and $600. The combination of a large addressable patient population and reasonably-priced comparable therapies translate to a potential multi-billion-dollar market despite the challenging drug reimbursement environment.

Hope for Chronic Cough Patients

As evidenced by recent clinical evidence2, the treatment of chronic cough by targeting the P2X3 receptor represents the most promising therapeutic advance for this severely unmet medical need. The fast onset of therapeutic effect, the objective quantification of treatment response and the clearly defined patient population are key to enabling clinical trial success and early market adoption. For the first time in a long time the successful, durable treatment of chronic cough finally appears to be within reach.

Perhaps the old proverb can be only partly true: maybe we can’t hide poverty, and I sure wouldn’t want to hide love. But we can do something about the coughing.

1 Dicpinigaitis, et al. (2006) Prevalence of depressive symptoms among patients with chronic cough. Chest 130: 18391843.

2 Smith, et al. (2017) MK-7264, a P2X3 Receptor Antagonist, Reduces Cough Frequency in Patients with Refractory Chronic Cough: Results from a Randomized, Controlled, Phase 2b Clinical Trial. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2017; 195: A7608

Published by Tony Matzouranis on October 04 2017

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