Drugs for the treatment of chronic back pain and arthritis-related pain will continue to be the most lucrative segments of the market for chronic pain treatments up to 2020, according to new forecasts.

The chronic back pain and arthritis pain segments accounted for almost 57% of the overall chronic pain market last year in seven leading markets - the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and Japan - due to increasing prevalence as these nations’ populations age, according to the report, which is published by Decision Resources. 

The study also forecasts that, between 2010 and 2020, the value of the overall market for chronic pain therapies will remain stable, at approximately $20 billion.

Emerging therapies that are expected to launch for the treatment of chronic back pain and arthritis pain are all reformulations of existing analgesics, the report notes, adding that, overall, emerging therapies will make up 18% of the total chronic pain market by 2020. However, these products will not be able to completely recoup sales set to be lost from the generic erosion of key branded products. Most notable among these are controlled-release oxycodone (Purdue Pharma/Mundipharma/Napp Pharmaceuticals' OxyContin), Eli Lilly/Boehringer Ingelheim's Cymbalta/Xeristar (duloxetine), Pfizer's Lyrica (pregabalin) and Celebrex (celecoxib), and the transdermal lidocaine patch (Endo Pharmaceuticals' Lidoderm and Gruenenthal's Versatis), all of which will lose their market exclusivity by 2020.

The report also notes that, in the US, government agencies have attempted to address the prescription opioid abuse epidemic by mandating Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) programmes for all controlled-release opioid products. However, Decision Resources says that pain specialists interviewed for the study are doubtful as to whether REMS programmes will radically change physicians' prescribing habits. 

Pharmaceutical companies are also responding to the growing problem of prescription opioid abuse and diversion by incorporating abuse-deterrent formulation technologies into their emerging products, the study adds.

"Drug companies are developing reformulations of opioid analgesics designed to deter abuse," comments Natalie Taylor, an analyst with Decision Resources. However, she also points out that, according to thought leaders interviewed for the study, it will be "several years before epidemiological studies are able to prove that abuse-deterrent opioid products truly lower prescription drug abuse in the community."