Reflecting broader trends across the industry, a key driver for drug delivery innovation will be patient-centricity: with the aim to improve the patient experience as well as increasing patient compliance.
But moving forward, sustainability is likely to present an increasing consideration for the industry.
Drug delivery innovation across the pharmaceutical industry is set to see a significant boost in 2022: driven by a number of factors such as an increased focus on patient experience; the shift towards self-administration throughout the pandemic; and a growing biologics market which presents more complex challenges for delivery.
“One fall-out of the pandemic is that novel drug delivery device innovation – other than novel injectors – was temporarily slowed and, as the industry returns to normality, we can expect a rise in new devices throughout 2022,” notes Pharmapack Europe’s 2021 market survey and annual report.
“Significantly, future COVID vaccines will further increase the demand for injectable devices and the pandemic has also clearly shown the benefit of both connected and self-use devices. We anticipate innovation in devices will accelerate post pandemic and that device manufacturers and pharma will increasingly collaborate to use them in conjunction with other digital assets (apps, phone, computer)."
The pandemic has driven a trend towards self-administration and patient experience teams and real-world usability studies are no longer an optional extra but an integral part of R&D.
“The pandemic has also altered perceptions and expectations on delivery settings and there is an increasing number of people now self-administrating. As this becomes the norm, companies will make patient experience the central component of drug delivery design. Potentially emerging from this trend – in combination with connected devices – will also be the use of real-time data to ensure that patient treatment can be evaluated over a longer duration of time and will allow for increased compliance.”
Drug delivery in biologics
The biologics market is growing: but such products are harder to manufacture, store and administer than small molecule drugs.
Consequently, this is spurring innovation in drug delivery to ensure such complex products can be delivered to patients safely. Furthermore, drug delivery devices that offer a more comfortable experience and thus improve patient adherence can ultimately give a molecule a leading edge over a competitor.
In biologics, wearable injectors as the biggest areas to watch in drug delivery devices over the next five years, according to Pharmapack’s survey of industry professionals. In fact, the market for wearable injectors capable of delivering high-volume biologics is set to grow by $4bn alone over the next three years, according to research from Technavio.
Such devices are delivery systems that adhere to the body and can administer larger volumes of biologics subcutaneously over a longer period than an injected shot. This way, high-volume, high-viscosity drugs can be self-administered in a non-clinical setting.
Other key areas to watch are high viscosity auto-injectors; micro needles and novel patches; implantable devices, nasal inhalation devices, pen injectors, and nano-tech, according to the survey.
Sustainability is set to become an ever-growing issue for the pharmaceutical industry: and something that companies need to think about now if they’re to get ahead in the future.
“Whilst sustainability isn’t top of the pharmaceutical industry’s agenda right now, it’s likely to become a more significant theme in drug delivery over the next decade,” note Uri Baruch and Clare Beddoes of the Cambridge Design Partnership, an innovation specialist which has worked in drug delivery across biopharma and cell and gene therapy.
“At the moment, there isn’t regulation targeting the sustainability of drug delivery devices. However, as globally we target getting to Net Zero within a few decades, it seems unlikely the pharma industry will be exempt, and we’ll start to see this trickle down. The UK NHS, for example, has said it’s setting out to achieve Net Zero, including its supply chain, by 2045. Given that drug delivery devices tend to have long product development cycles, we need to start thinking about this sooner rather than later.
“There are reusable injection devices on the market, but they inevitably add user steps. For example, the device needs to be retrieved from storage, prepared, loaded, cleaned, possibly charged, safely re-stored and so on. That’s often viewed, particularly by clinicians, as reducing the user experience and increasing the risk of user error. However, sustainability is something that obviously becomes of even greater importance when considering connected devices. Many companies are currently proposing building digital into single-use devices, raising questions around how electronics waste should be dealt with – this may be a driver for innovation in years to come.”