Despite the availability of medical treatments for ulcerative colitis (UC), there are still some unmet clinical needs in a number of areas, especially relating to the efficacy and safety of maintenance therapies. This is due to the fact that many UC patients experience loss of clinical response to treatment and many therapies are immunosuppressive or carry boxed warnings. Key opinion leaders (KOLs) interviewed by GlobalData indicated that a greater repertoire of treatment options would greatly reduce the number of patients experiencing treatment failure.

Another difficulty faced by gastroenterologists is the lack of objective biomarkers to judge which therapy would most effectively treat UC and which best suits the individual patient’s condition. Knowing which treatment to prescribe first would improve patient prognosis, as treatment response can be worse in biologic-experienced patients compared to biologic-naïve ones. Without suitable treatment, patients can develop complex fulminant UC disease, which can be incredibly difficult to treat due to the medical and logistical complexities involved, making it a key unmet need to individualize therapy based on biomarkers. Moreover, patient adherence to maintenance therapy can be an obstacle due to several factors, such as complexity of dosing regimen or safety and tolerability.

Targeting unmet needs in any disease area is a highly profitable strategy for pharmaceutical companies. Most of the unmet needs in UC lie within the clinical rather than the environmental aspects of disease management, as both physician and patient awareness of UC is increasing with the help of social media and relevant charities, such as Crohn’s and Colitis UK. Important unmet needs for UC are highlighted in Figure 1 and are rated according to their level of attainment in the current and future UC market (1 = low attainment and 5 = high attainment). Each unmet need is also ranked by level of importance (High, Moderate, or Low).

Figure 1: Unmet Needs and Opportunities in Ulcerative Colitis.

Credit: GlobalData.