Report: Merck set to gain from entering the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis market

30 June 2016 (Last Updated June 30th, 2016 18:30)

The idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) market has witnessed a number of emerging trends such as licensing agreements, alliances and acquisitions between the key vendors functioning in the market, with Merck being the latest beneficiary in the race, according to a report by GlobalData.

The idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) market has witnessed a number of emerging trends such as licensing agreements, alliances and acquisitions between the key vendors functioning in the market, with Merck being the latest beneficiary in the race, according to a report by GlobalData.

Titled 'Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis-Opportunity Analysis and Forecast to 2025', the report says that acquisitions, such as that of Genentech by Roche and Promedior by Bristol-Myers Squibb, have been a key strategy followed by the companies since 2014 to hit the IPF market.

Merck will be a new contender to enter the IPF market, which is currently dominated by Roche's Esbriet and Boehringer Ingelheim's Ofev, both with a premium price of more than $90,000 a year.

Through its subsidiary, Merck will acquire Afferent Pharmaceuticals' lead candidate AF-219 (candidate in phase II trials in IPF patients) and all outstanding stocks of the company for a purchase consideration of $500m, following the same inorganic strategy.

"Through its subsidiary, Merck will acquire Afferent Pharmaceuticals' lead candidate AF-219 … and all outstanding stocks of the company for a purchase consideration of $500m."

The acquisition of orally administered P2X3 selective, non-narcotic drug candidate AF-219 will provide Merck with an opportunity to gain from the anticipated growth in the IPF market, which is forecast to reach $3.2bn by 2025, according to Mathew Thaxter, GlobalData's Analyst covering immunology.

However, Thaxter adds that AF-219, despite having competitive advantage over the other two drugs in alleviating disease-related symptoms such as chronic cough, will have limited benefit as it doesn't stop or hinder disease progression.

This is the reason it is unlikely to command high-price premiums that Esbriet and Ofev enjoy, says the analyst, who further adds that the drug will still benefit from a large base of 107,000 IPF-diagnosed patients aged 50 or above in the seven major markets of the US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the UK and Japan.

The low price is expected to be offset by the large patient base, while more sales are expected upon receiving regulatory approval.