Impact of COVID-19 on the Cancer Biological Therapy Market
COVID-19 has become a major concern for the overall healthcare industry currently. The pandemic has directly affected the oncology-related research as well. A few Chinese studies have suggested that cancer patients are a little more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the other healthy people. According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in April 2020, approximately 39% of patients suffering from cancer are at a higher risk of suffering from COVID-19, and 8% of people who do not have cancer.
Cancer biological therapy is a type of treatment that utilizes the immune system of the body to fight against cancer cells. It works in 2 ways – first, by inducing the immune system to attack the cancer cells, and second, by making cancer cells easier for the immune system to recognize. Biological therapy is widely used in lung cancer, among other types of cancer. On the other hand, COVID-19 also adversely affects the lungs. The outbreak of COVID-19 has severely affected the treatment of all the cancer patients, but most of all, the lung cancer patients, which already has a high mortality rate. According to a report published by Future Medicine Ltd, a prospective cohort study of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in China identified 18 patients with a cancer history. Lung cancer was the most common cancer type, contributing to 28% of the patients.
The pandemic is affecting the supply chain which will severely hurt global trade. China is an important destination for active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and pharmaceutical raw material exports from several Latin American countries. China is the top trading partner of Chile, Peru, and Brazil. Additionally, the pharmaceutical sector in India is also facing hardships as India is dependent on China for procuring bulk drugs. India imports around 67% of its requirements of API from China. The manufacturers dependent on Chinese suppliers for the supply of raw materials will be devastated and production will be curtailed which will result in decreased production. These disruptions in demand and supply will eventually affect the production of immunotherapy products.
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the supply chain of immunotherapy drugs adversely across the globe, as major companies have their manufacturing centers outside Asia. Additionally, the shortage of key raw materials and API is expected to affect the production of immunotherapy drugs. Various clinical trials related to cancer immunotherapy are also interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic which can cause delays in the development of innovative cancer immunotherapy products.
On the other side, the number of COVID-19 patients is increasing in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the research study published in a white paper, amongst all cancer patients, approximately 4% to 5% of patients were suffering from COVID-19. The danger of COVID-19 infection is more to cancer patients due to the compromised immune system. Additionally, more than half (53.6%) cancer patients developed severe events due to corona, 21.4% were admitted to ICU, 35.7% had life-threatening complications and 28.6% of the patients died.
Thus, it is becoming difficult for doctors to suggest a universal set of recommendations for all cancer patients therefore customized treatment decisions are made for individuals. Lockdown imposed by COVID-19 can cause delay or interruption in the therapy cycle of cancer patients taking immunotherapy. Also, immunotherapy drugs are expensive as compared to other treatment options and due to the economic losses and recession, the purchasing power of patients is significantly affected. Therefore, patients are likely to opt for cheaper alternatives. This is expected to negatively affect the growth of the cancer biological therapy market.