Pharmacy times interviewed Aklilu Tedla, vice president of strategy and business development at Cardinal Health, to discuss the future of pharmacies as more cell and gene therapy products become available to patients.
Request: What are some recent advances in the cell and gene therapy space and what has been the impact in the field?
Aklilu Tedla: Yes, so there are around 10 products on the market today, ranging from drugs that treat oncology, various types of neuromuscular eye problems.
Just to give you an idea of the impact, for example, Spark Therapeutics’ [voretigene neparvovec-rzyl (Luxturna)] has had instances where people’s visions have been restored. So just think about it from the perspective of a patient, caregiver, or provider – it’s unprecedented.
In a sense, this is the promise of cell and gene therapies, which move us beyond chronic disease management to curative areas. Now we are still early, a lot of work to do. But these 10 are laying the foundation for a rich product pipeline that will lead to a very strong market along the way.
Request: How has the use of cellular and gene therapies evolved over time?
Aklilu Tedla: Yes, that’s a good question; I can answer in 3 ways. So, if you look at it from a therapy area.
Therefore normally, or historically, aimed at a small population group, or a type of orphan designation, at therapeutic areas in which there are thousands of patients, therefore starting with a few patients, or a small population of patients that can reach patients who have a similar stroke, stroke affects thousands of people. There are products in the pipeline intended for a larger population. So he’s one from a therapy area, you see expansion.
Secondly, when you say cell therapy, for example, you can think of it in 2 ways. There are goals: the autologous is out of my body and back in my body, of course it’s only one on one. There is allogenic, which is out of my body in many. Now, this innovation is effectively making this therapy or therapies available to a broader range. If you return to the hope of more healing results, you are now making this result available to more.
Finally, while gene therapy has had a number of difficulties, I would not say difficult, but a slow start, from 2022 onwards, we see a massive acceleration of these therapies, which once again will bring much better results for patients.
Request: How has the evolution of the cell and gene therapy market increased patient access to these treatments?
Aklilu Tedla: So today, I’d say it’s fair to say that patients in need of these gene therapies have access to them. This is a small group of patients and therefore can only access it from the payer’s point of view, for example.
But as this market grows, so we think this market could be close to $ 100 billion in the next 7 years, you will have to manage 2 things: results, this is the hope of selling gene therapies, but then cost. So how do you manage the costs? Well, if you want to make sure you optimize safety, these types of new therapies will require more safety monitoring, longer-term monitoring. So, if you look at it from the patient’s point of view, what will make you feel comfortable trying these new therapies? If you think about it from the payer’s point of view, what will make you pay for this therapy is the promise of an outcome that you will pay for.
So I think there are a lot of things that need to happen to increase access, but it starts with effectiveness and then the ability to monitor and ensure security over the course of 10-15 years is what we think the monitoring will need to be. aspect of cell and gene therapies.