The large new patient pool in emerging markets indicates “huge potential for the life sciences industry in autoimmune diseases”, claims a new report, but it may be too soon to generate substantial value in those countries.

The report, from Datamonitor, notes that diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus clearly offer growth opportunities for pharmaceutical companies, “with patients requiring long-term treatment, often with novel, expensive biologics”. It adds that “in a time when breaking even in other areas feels like a success, growing sales and burgeoning pipelines in autoimmune diseases across the major markets” show why the industry is turning its focus to such treatments.

James Wentworth, senior healthcare analyst at Datamonitor, notes that the autoimmune market grew 16.2% in the seven major regions between 2005 and 2009, and in the combined emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China and Turkey, “growth was a staggering 38.6%”. However the rises in terms of revenues are less impressive.

Autoimmune sales in BRICT regions only generated $644 million in 2009 compared to $25 billion in the same year across the seven major markets. This highlights that “affordability and differences in patient access to medicines has been a major limiting factor,” says Mr Wentworth.

The Datamonitor analysis predicts that the most attractive emerging autoimmune disorder market is Russia “thanks to favourable characteristics around access to expensive medicines, biosimilar threat, pricing, patient potential, market size and potential for foreign drugs”. Russia outstripped its emerging market peers in 2009, generating autoimmune sales of $266 million.

Mr Wentworth concludes that India and China are the least attractive autoimmune markets at present. However he argues that the situation is likely to improve as certain indicators, such as India’s growing urban middle class and China’s aim to provide healthcare to 90% of the population, "suggest a move towards expanded patient access to the more expensive novel pharmaceutical products".