Is there any room left for innovation in the flea and tick market? By Joseph Harvey, Animal Pharm

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With myriad flea and tick products commercially available – both generic and pioneer – are the days of real innovation in this space behind the animal health industry? Animal Pharm editor Joseph Harvey spoke to both Bayer HealthCare Animal Health and Piedmont Animal Health about their strategies in antiparasiticides.

With so many flea and tick products on the market, is there any room left for true innovation in this space?

“The market has many products that do a good job in keeping fleas and ticks under control, yet there will always be opportunity for products with improved efficacy, safety, and convenience of administration,” said Michael Kelly, Piedmont’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

“At Piedmont, we see room for improvement in nearly every product category and our development portfolio is geared to this belief. With parasiticides, in addition to spectrum of control and efficacy, we focus on delivery systems that improve convenience of administration for pet owners.”

As an example of improved convenience of administration, Piedmont developed the advantus (imidacloprid) once-daily oral antiparasitic soft chewable tablet for dogs. This pioneer product received US approval in February 2015and is now owned by Bayer HealthCare Animal Health.

Eric Barnett, executive vice president of business development and marketing at Piedmont, explained: “Yes, the flea and tick market has several products that compete in the same space, but we focus on the end users, whether veterinarians or pet owners, and develop products that better meet their needs and improve pet owner compliance, which is always a concern for veterinarians.”

“It takes at least five, and in some cases 10 or more years to develop and secure US regulatory approval through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a new antiparasitic treatment. Piedmont focuses on where the market is moving. Just like in hockey, we try to skate to where the puck is going to be.”

Piedmont strives to be in the forefront in understanding and implementing the constantly evolving regulatory guidelines from the FDA and EPA that regulate antiparasitic products.

“We are continuously monitoring and evaluating any new antiparasitic product that enters the market, as well as assessing key aspects including: ease of administration, duration and spectrum of activity; effectiveness; safety; distribution; and sales and market penetration,” added Mr Barnett.

“Piedmont conducts extensive quantitative and qualitative market research with veterinarians and pet owners to secure their perspective of the strengths and limitations of the antiparasitic that veterinarians prescribe or use on their own pets,” Mr Barnett said.

“Flea and tick products have improved dramatically over the past 20 years however, to date there still is no single perfect product in the marketplace.”

A spokesperson for Bayer said there is still a need for innovation: “When considering the global rise of companion vector-borne diseases and their potential impact to animals and humans, there is clearly a need for increased awareness of the diseases that may be spread by fleas and ticks, as well as a need for additional innovation in the marketplace.

“As an innovation company, we have to challenge our business, and the market, to deliver products that can add value to the lives of our customers. The inherent challenge to delivering a high quality, market demand-based innovation is the real-time – eight to ten years in most cases, needed to take a compound from molecule to medicine.

“As long as scientific knowledge increases, there will always exist the opportunity for innovation or to become better.”

Will there ever be another blockbuster treatment for flea and ticks?

“I predict there will be more blockbusters in the next five to seven years,” Mr Kelly stated. “And perhaps Piedmont will be the company that introduces that next blockbuster.”

Does Bayer favor product lifecycle management or brand new innovation when considering new products?

As the company battles generic competition against its top-selling Advantage family of flea, tick and worm products, Bayer is seeking one of these future blockbusters. In the first half of 2015, the firm’s Advantage and Seresto brands helped it to record a 17% increase in sales.

The spokesperson told Animal Pharm the firm is uniquely positioned as it shares a research platform with Bayer’s human health and plant care divisions.

“Plant and animal pests have some common molecule targets, as a starting point for new molecule discovery and medicine delivery,” the spokesperson said.

“As such, when considering new products it’s vitally important for us to maximize our life science capabilities. New innovation is a key component to deliver solutions to our patients.

“We also believe lifecycle management is vital to keeping our brands current and meeting our customer’s expectations. Therefore, for us, both are an integral part of our innovation strategy.”

Bayer called for more outside collaboration in the flea and tick area to help boost industry innovation.

“As a global company, innovation delivery must also consider the complex array of regulatory and governing frameworks that vary on a regional and country basis, and that can provide access to new medicines,” the spokesperson continued.

“This framework, which includes stakeholders such as regulatory agencies, elected and appointed officials, NGOs, veterinarians, farmers, and pet owners, has to engage with industry in a way that can foster new innovation efficiently.”