Raising Awareness Key to Promoting Adoption of Autoimmune Disease Diagnostics

LONDON -- As part of the prevailing trend of low priority being accorded to diagnostics information, autoimmune disease diagnostics too have been vastly undervalued by patients and healthcare practitioners. Now, however, rising awareness of the clinical and financial benefits of autoimmune tests is boosting their deployment.

So far, lack of patient knowledge about autoimmune diseases has been compounded by the limited understanding of healthcare professionals regarding the range and utility of available autoimmune tests. The key challenge for autoimmune testing companies has, therefore, been to develop effective communication channels that emphasize the importance of diagnostic information and the role they play in lowering treatment costs through early diagnosis and intervention.

Focused educational programs, information available on net and aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies are now supporting increased awareness about various autoimmune diseases, their symptoms, diagnosis and therapy. As a result, the true value of diagnostics testing for autoimmune diseases is being realized.

Promoting the concept of better usage of diagnostic tests resulting in more targeted treatments, better patient care and reduced costs to the healthcare continuum, is set to support uptake, remarks Frost & Sullivan healthcare analyst Raghavendra Chitta.  Developing closer relationships with the various patient groups and undertaking pharmacoeconomic studies that highlight the overall clinical and cost benefits of autoimmune diagnostics are also poised to encourage market growth.

With governments boosting spending on disease prevention programs as part of their strategy to contain overall healthcare expenditures, diagnostics are coming to the fore. Governments are realizing the cost-effectiveness of early and correct disease diagnosis, thereby providing a fillip to the autoimmune diagnostic testing market.

An aging population and their growing demand to be healthy and active is also projected to spur market expansion. The trend towards integrated healthcare and a steady shift towards proactive rather reactive testing is expected to drive growth in the long term.

As awareness levels rise, autoimmune disease diagnostics is poised to emerge as one of the fastest growing segments in the European diagnostics market. A rapidly expanding range of potential therapeutic approaches, and promotional activities by pharmaceutical companies are expected to provide momentum to uptake of autoimmune diagnostics.

Frost & Sullivan estimates that the total European autoimmune disease diagnostics market was worth USD 440 million in 2004 and is forecast to reach USD 700 million in 2011. Diagnostics for thyroid diseases accounted for over half of overall market revenues in 2004.

For many in vitro diagnostics (IVD) companies struggling with stagnating revenues and reimbursement pressures, the segment for autoimmune diseases tests other than thyroid and rheumatoid arthritis -- one of the few areas which has been growing at a double-digit figure recently -- is emerging as new, niche source of growth.

To optimize on growth opportunities, large established IVD companies that have a presence in autoimmune testing market need to concentrate on increasing indications and developing new markers. Forging alliances with small companies, which have a good IP and entering into promotional alliances with drug companies will also underline their competitive advantage.

In 2004, Germany was the leading revenue contributor to the European autoimmune diagnostics market with a 23 percent share followed by Italy and France. Companies can also look to the potentially lucrative and as yet unexploited markets in Central and Eastern Europe.

Several technical hurdles will have to be overcome if the market is to leverage on its strong growth potential. Identifying markers with high specificity and sensitivity to monitoring disease susceptibility and activity; developing markers that have ability to predict disease severity; developing predictive tests, which will identify people that are at risk from various autoimmune diseases and disease identifying markers to monitor the effects of disease modifying therapies and allow their optimization will be crucial to sustaining market growth, concludes Chitta.

Source: Frost & Sullivan