Medicines

Respiratory drug development not sophisticated enough

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


The current approach to drug discovery in respiratory medicine is not sophisticated enough to meet the needs of the industry and patients, an expert group says.

At a European Respiratory Society summit set up to identify some of the barriers to drug discovery the group noted that drug development in respiratory medicine was way behind that of other common disease areas.

For instance the cumulative probability of respiratory drugs reaching the market was only 3% compared to 6–14% for other disease areas such as HIV/AIDS, haematology, cardiovascular, dermatology, cancer and neurological disease.

This was despite many “new” respiratory drugs being improvements on existing classes of drug, such as long-acting β2-agonists, long-acting muscarinic antagonists, safer inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and longer acting antibiotics.

The reasons for the higher attrition rate needs to be better understood in order to address the issue, said the group who reported their findings in an editorial published in the European Respiratory Journal.

 The problem was almost certainly multifactorial and included a poor understanding of the underlying disease mechanism, poor animal models for testing new treatments, difficulties of developing drugs for inhaled delivery, and a lack of investment in respiratory research and respiratory drug development.

“Respiratory diseases remain an area of considerable unmet medical need and it is valid to question whether the current approach to drug discovery in this area is sophisticated enough to meet the needs of the industry and patients,” they wrote.

However the respiratory disease community had recognised the issues and joined together in instigating a number of changes/initiatives.

For example clear efforts were being made to understand and address the limitations in the current disease modelling approaches, with greater willingness to move away from the standard “off-the-shelf” historical models to those that directly measure what the candidate molecule is targeting.

“At the heart of this are global collaborative efforts between academia and the pharmaceutical industry to better understand the human condition through large-scale, well-characterised patient studies, and to integrate this knowledge in the development of more predictive in vitro and animal models,” they said.

The adoption of these new models was being facilitated by a more flexible regulatory framework, better able to respond to and capitalise on advances in knowledge/technology approaches and expedite the exploration of new areas.

The society were also considering establishing a research agency that would facilitate drug development in in the future.

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