Disease Analysis: HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (HIV PrEP)

Disease Analysis: HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (HIV PrEP)

  • April 2021 •
  • 47 pages •
  • Report ID: 6021788 •
  • Format: PDF
Overview
HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, is a lentivirus belonging to the Retroviridae family. HIV infects and destroys cells of the immune system, including cluster of differentiation 4+ (CD4+) T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells, progressively impairing the infected individual’s ability to respond to subsequent infections. If left untreated for several years, the continued destruction of CD4+ T cells can lead to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (defined as a CD4+ T-cell count <200 cells/mm3), which is characterized by increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections and cancers. Although HIV infection is currently incurable, there are several effective highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAARTs) available that can suppress viral replication and prevent the progression of infection to AIDS.

Latest key takeaways

Since its initial US and EU approvals for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in 2012 and 2016, respectively, Truvada’s PrEP-specific sales steadily rose to a peak in 2019, with estimated PrEP sales of $2,278m in the US and five major European markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK). This strong performance was driven by its status as the only approved therapy for PrEP until Descovy’s US approval in October 2019, the favorable recommendations for its use in US CDC and WHO guidelines, and reimbursement by the healthcare systems of four of the five major European markets in either national or pilot programs. However, PrEP-specific sales tumbled in 2020 to an estimated $1,218m, driven by the launch of Teva’s generic in the US market in October 2020 and rapid cannibalization by Gilead’s own successor product, Descovy.
Despite Truvada’s and Descovy’s commercial success, PrEP remains underutilized due to poor awareness and lack of/limited reimbursement in some European countries, though uptake is increasing due to recent favorable reimbursement decisions in Germany, Spain, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as Gilead’s marketing efforts. The US has the highest rate of uptake (estimated at 22.0% of at-risk individuals in 2020) and generates the majority of global PrEP revenues, though the October 2020 launch of generic versions of Truvada has triggered a steep decline in the drug’s sales. Within the EU and UK, Truvada is the only approved agent for PrEP but generates minimal sales due to generic competition since July 2017. PrEP uptake is also estimated to be much lower in the five major European markets (4.7% in 2020), due partially to a historical lack of reimbursement in some countries and continued lack of reimbursement in Italy.
In order to protect PrEP revenues from generic versions of Truvada, since October 2019 Gilead has been promoting swapping to Descovy, which has displayed non-inferior efficacy and marginal improvements in bone and renal safety. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic reducing interaction between physicians and their patients, Gilead has successfully converted approximately half of patients to Descovy (46% market share versus 54% for Truvada as of the end of Q4 2020), due largely to Descovy being priced at parity to Truvada. However, Teva’s launch of the first generic version of Truvada will severely limit further swapping to Descovy throughout 2021 as widespread use of Descovy in patients with no pre-existing renal or bone risk factors is unlikely to be deemed as cost effective compared to lower-cost generic Truvada.
Descovy does have a potential growth opportunity in the planned HIV Women’s Prevention Study, which is expected to begin in mid-2021 and will support its US approval in adolescents and adult women (the FDA refused to approve Descovy for women as the sole pivotal DISCOVER trial only included men who have sex with men [MSM] and transgender women). However, if trial timelines are comparable to the DISCOVER trial, supplementary approval for use in women is unlikely to occur until late 2024, leaving Descovy little time to capitalize on the new indication before its anticipated patent expiry in June 2025. As a result, Gilead’s PrEP development focus is switching to its six-monthly subcutaneously administered lenacapavir, which would be more competitive against longer-acting pipeline rivals and was added to the HIV Women’s Prevention Study in December 2020. Gilead also intends to initiate a PrEP study for lenacapavir in MSM and transgender individuals in mid-late 2021.
There are currently six agents in clinical development for pharmacological PrEP, comprising five antiretrovirals and a single broadly neutralizing antibody. All of the pipeline agents aim to offer less frequent dosing schedules in order to address the issue of suboptimal adherence to once-daily Truvada/Descovy, which can result in impaired effectiveness in real-world practice. Notable threats to Truvada/Descovy include ViiV Healthcare’s Vocabria, which is dosed intramuscularly every two months (eight weeks) and has already demonstrated superior efficacy compared to Truvada in the HPTN 083 (cisgender men and transgender women) and HPTN 084 (cisgender women) trials. Vocabria’s bimonthly administration could be very attractive to patients who struggle to adhere to daily pills, though its injectable nature and requirement for physician administration will deter some patients, meaning Descovy will still be able to maintain some market share following Vocabria’s anticipated US and EU launches in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022, respectively. Merck and Co’s oral once-monthly islatravir is another major threat, as a once-monthly option should greatly improve adherence while avoiding the need for physician administration, though no in-human proof-of-concept efficacy data are currently available for islatravir in the PrEP setting.
The overall likelihood of approval of a Phase I antiviral asset is 12.9%, and the average probability a drug advances from Phase III is 68.5%. Antiviral assets, on average, take 8.4 years from Phase I to approval, which is slightly less than the average of 9.0 years for the overall infectious disease space.