Competition intensifying for transdermal pain products

The convergence of active lifestyles, aging joints and a more enlightened approach by practitioners to treating pain is contributing to an attractive demand picture for pain management drug products.

This favourable outlook has led to an increase in the number of participants competing for a share of the market. Because of the ability of transdermal formulations to deliver pain medication consistently and unobtrusively with minimal side-effects, a range of companies are pursuing the transdermal route for a number of generic analgesics.

This increased level of competition is taking a toll on the margins of existing players. There were three approved fentanyl patches on the US market in 2006. With the loss of patent protection for J&J’s Duragesic fentanyl brand, that number rose to seven by 2009. During this time, the dollar value of Duragesic sales in North America fell by almost fifty percent.

In Europe, the market is even more intense: there are a dozen marketed transdermal fentanyl products competing for market share. For mild to moderate pain, oral pain management drugs in Europe are coming under pressure from several brands of buprenorphine patches and diclofenac patches and gels that are marketed in the region.

And then there are the pipeline candidates. Transdermal versions of a number of analgesics, some powerful and exotic, are being developed in transdermal form – a group that includes bupivacaine, ketoprofen and dexamethasone.

Several of these development programs involve international partnerships designed to take advantage of perceived opportunities in regional markets.

An important demographic demand driver is the aging population in developed economies, which is expected to lead to considerable increases in several conditions for which pain management will be crucial to quality of life. One example is osteoarthritis, an often painful condition in which oral medications compete with topical pain relief formulations. Volteren and Felbinac (Japan) are important competitors in this segment.

A recent analysis of the global transdermal pain management segment by Greystone Associates includes an assessment of factors influencing demand for transdermal pain management products and forecasts for the growth of transdermal pain management products by drug class, region and technology. For more information, please see the Greystone Associates website.

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