’40 is the new 30′, ’50 is the new 30′, and so forth. We have become somewhat innured to the hopeful and/or desperate proclamations of time turned back on itself: 30 seems to be the modal choice of aspiration, epitomizing some idealized waypoint along the human lifespan, a Kodak/jpeg moment of post-adolescent, post-hookup, post-graduate, pre-arthritic, pre-plaque, developmental equilibrium. This conveniently overlooks the thirty-something angst of trying to juggle early professional aspirations and hierarchy-climbing, along with the chaotic demands of love and procreation.
’30’ in the pharma world used to be a billion dollars; the annualized benchmark for blockbuster status, the brass ring to be grabbed and clung to, if at all possible.
Now, an appraisal of deals and financings over the past eighteen months within the CNS sector suggests that there is a new ’30’, a new goalpost in a world where the goalposts are always being moved: 30,000 (plus or minus 5000, but that’s quibbling). In an environment where going after mega-markets is a task thus far thwarted, such as in Alzheimer’s, or requires somehow leapfrogging a gaggle of generic predecessors, as in schizophrenia or depression, 30,000 has become a sought after hybrid: A big enough patient population to offer some volume of utilization, while small enough to not panic payors into adding yet another tier to their reimbursement schema.
Some examples of the new ’30’: SAGE Therapeutics estimates that there are 25,000 (close enough) cases of severe status epilepticus in the US each year. SAGE-547 in SSRE, just entering Phase III, has thus generated a market cap for SAGE that recently, albeit briefly, surpassed $1.7 billion. Auspex Therapeutics, now in Phase III with SD-809 for Huntington’s (about 30,000 patients in the US), was acquired by Teva for $3.5 billion. Avanir was acquired by Otsuka for $3.5 billion, and Avanir meets criteria by having tried Nuedexta in about 30,000 different clinical indications. Plus or minus 29,980.
With all due respect to the rare (3000) and ultra-rare (300), the sweet spot is 30,000, at least until someone cracks the code for a major disorder, like depression (well underway) or Alzheimer’s (no sign of this happening anytime soon).