Express Pharma

Is Women’s Health gaining momentum?

In Express Pharma’s Women’s Day Special issue, some industry observers and pharma stakeholders share insights on opportunities, challenges and focus on the women’s health segment as it continues to evolve and advance.

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Despite high unmet need across many conditions, the pipeline is sparse

According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, as of February 18, 2021, 287 drugs are in development for various women’s health-related conditions*. Among these pipeline candidates, 42 per cent are in Phase II development stage or beyond.  Approximately 31 per cent of the overall women’s health pipeline is assessing candidates for female infertility followed by 22 per cent for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and 14 per cent for endometriosis.

Considering the overall research and development activities within this space, there were a minimal number of women’s health company acquisitions by Big Pharma in the last few years. In August 2020, Bayer acquired KaNDy Therapeutics for a sum of $875 million to expand its drug development pipeline in women’s healthcare.

Genericisation: A barrier to entry of novel therapies

One of the major drivers is the growing incidence of female health conditions. Infertility is becoming more prevalent as women are postponing pregnancy until a reproductively older age when fertility has decreased. Endometriosis and uterine fibroids are receiving increased disease awareness and earlier diagnoses. There is also an increasing need for contraceptives as certain government initiatives aim to curb population growth.

The current treatment of many female health conditions is highly genericised which represents a barrier to the entry of novel therapies. Hesitancy also remains for use of hormonal contraceptives due to potential unwanted side-effects and cultural or religious reasons. Despite the high unmet need across many conditions, the pipeline is sparse and the female population ages 12–54 is projected to decrease across certain markets.

Significant unmet needs remain

Several novel products, many with improved routes of administration, have recently launched across the female health space. Multiple competing companies have entered the space with their own oral GnRH antagonist attempting to capture market share for endometriosis and uterine fibroid indications.

New forms of contraceptives will offer more options for women.

The infertility drug paradigm has largely remained unchanged, although improved versions of the original fertility drugs have made their way into the market.

Digital technologies are advancing female health

Femtech includes digital technologies that aim to improve women’s health, with menstrual health and reproductive health trackers being two of its fastest-growing sectors.

Despite major progress in treating patients, significant unmet needs remain such as improving the poor side-effect profiles and low patient compliance of contraceptives, sufficiently addressing the underlying pathology of conditions such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids and novel treatment options for menopausal symptoms, preterm birth, post-partum haemorrhage and vulvar and vaginal atrophy.

* Female-specific cancer indications like breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer are classified under the oncology space by pharma companies and are thus not considered within the scope of the women’s health indications.

Continued investment in women’s health will enhance health outcomes, quality of life and gender equality

Women’s health has oft been a neglected area, and COVID-19 disruptions further exacerbated limitations in women’s access to healthcare services and infrastructure. Thus, there is an urgent need to invest in providing access to health information, services and preventative tools.

Globally, Bayer continues to invest in breakthrough innovation in healthcare by continuing to build a strong development pipeline advancing more than 50 projects through the clinical development phases with women’s health as a key focus area. A recent attractive asset addition through the acquisition of KaNDy Therapeutics supports the investment in women’s health advancements, with interventions for menopause symptoms currently in development.

Providing women evidence-based solutions to empower them to take charge of their health is the need of the hour. Continued investment in women’s health will promote enhanced health outcomes, quality of life and gender equality, with these effects cascading across other areas of women’s lives.

Plugging gaps with digitalisation

Bayer For Women’, a dedicated social media platform and ‘Bare your Pain’ application are some of the key digital interventions that have empowered women by equipping them with more information about managing their health. In 2020, Bayer also partnered with The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological