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Risks Related to the Commercialization of Our Product Candidates
We face competition from entities that have developed or may develop product candidates for our target indications. If these companies develop technologies or product candidates more rapidly than we do or their technologies, including delivery technologies, are more effective, our ability to develop and successfully commercialize our product candidates may be adversely affected.
The development and commercialization of drugs is highly competitive. We compete with a variety of multinational pharmaceutical companies and specialized biotechnology companies, as well as technology being developed at universities and other research institutions. Our competitors have developed, are developing or will develop product candidates and processes competitive with our product candidates. Competitive therapeutic treatments include those that have already been approved and accepted by the medical community and any new treatments that enter the market. We believe that a significant number of products are currently under development, and may become commercially available in the future, for the treatment of conditions for which we may try to develop product candidates. An overview of potential competitors is included in Item 4.B: “Business overview - Competition”.
Many of our competitors possess significantly greater financial, technical, manufacturing, marketing, sales and supply resources or experience than us. If we successfully obtain approval for any product candidate, we will face competition based on many different factors, including the safety and effectiveness of our products, the ease with which our products can be administered and the extent to which patients accept relatively new routes of administration, the timing and scope of regulatory approvals for these products, the availability and cost of manufacturing, marketing and sales capabilities, price, reimbursement coverage and patent position. Competing products could present superior treatment alternatives, including being more effective, safer, less expensive or marketed and sold more effectively than any products we may develop. Competitive products may make any products we develop obsolete or noncompetitive before we recover the expense of developing and commercializing our product candidates. Such competitors could also recruit our employees, which could negatively impact our level of expertise and our ability to execute our business plan. Furthermore, in our clinical studies we could be competing for the same patient population, resulting in a smaller population of suitable candidates and possibly delays and additional costs.
If any of our product candidates is approved for marketing and commercialization and we are unable to develop sales, marketing and distribution capabilities on our own or enter into agreements with third parties to perform these functions on acceptable terms, we will be unable to successfully commercialize any such future products.
Even if any of our product candidates is approved, we currently have no sales, marketing or distribution capabilities or experience. In addition, we intend to consider out-licensing, spinouts or collaborative partnerships to develop and commercialize our RNA technologies or programs. If any of our product candidates is approved, we will need to develop internal sales, marketing and distribution capabilities to commercialize such products, which would be expensive and time-consuming, or enter into collaborations with third parties to perform these services. If we decide to market our products directly, we will need to commit significant financial and managerial resources to develop a marketing and sales force with technical expertise and supporting distribution, administration and compliance capabilities. If we rely on third parties with such capabilities to market our products or decide to co-promote products with collaborators, we will need to establish and maintain marketing and distribution arrangements with third parties, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to enter into such arrangements on acceptable terms or at all. In entering into third-party marketing or distribution arrangements, any revenue we receive will depend upon the efforts of the third parties and there can be no assurance that such third parties will establish adequate sales and distribution capabilities or be successful in gaining market acceptance of any approved product. If we are not successful in commercializing any product approved in the
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future, either on our own or through third parties, our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects could be materially adversely affected.
In addition, we have estimated the size of patient populations and market potential for certain of the indications that our product candidates are intended to target. While we have based our estimates on industry and market data that we obtained from sources, including scientific journals, that we believe to be reliable, actual potential may differ from these estimates.
Even if we receive marketing approval for any of our product candidates, it may not achieve broad market acceptance, which would limit the revenue that we generate from its sales.
The commercial success of any of our product candidates, if approved by the FDA, the EMA or other regulatory authorities, will depend upon the awareness and acceptance of the product among the medical community, including physicians, patients, patient advocacy groups and healthcare payors. Market acceptance of any of our product candidates, if approved, will depend on a number of factors, including, among others:
Moreover, our first commercial sale of eluforsen, if ever, will trigger a milestone payment to CFFT of approximately $ 16 million pursuant to our agreement with CFFT. Commercialization of QR-421a will trigger payments of up to $ 37.5 million pursuant to our agreement with FFB. We may not have sufficient funds to support our milestone payment obligations to CFFT and FFB, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.
Even if we are able to commercialize any of our product candidates, the products may not receive coverage and adequate reimbursement from third-party payors, which could harm our business.
The availability of reimbursement by governmental and private payors is essential for most patients to be able to afford expensive treatments. Sales of any of our product candidates, if approved, will depend substantially on the extent to which the costs of these product candidates will be paid by health maintenance, managed care, pharmacy benefit and similar healthcare management organizations, or reimbursed by government health administration authorities, private health coverage insurers and other third-party payors. If reimbursement is not available, or is available only to limited levels, we may not be able to successfully commercialize any product candidate. Even if coverage is provided, the
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approved reimbursement amount may not be high enough to allow us to establish or maintain pricing sufficient to realize a sufficient return on our investment.
There is significant uncertainty related to the insurance coverage and reimbursement of newly approved products. In the United States, the principal decisions about reimbursement for new medicines are typically made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as CMS decides whether and to what extent a new medicine will be covered and reimbursed under Medicare. Private payors tend to follow CMS to a substantial degree. It is difficult to predict what CMS will decide with respect to reimbursement for fundamentally novel products such as ours, as there is no body of established practices and precedents for these new products. Reimbursement agencies in Europe may be more conservative than CMS. For example, a number of cancer drugs have been approved for reimbursement in the United States and have not been approved for reimbursement in certain European countries.
The intended use of a drug product by a physician can also affect pricing. For example, CMS could initiate a National Coverage Determination administrative procedure, by which the agency determines which uses of a therapeutic product would and would not be reimbursable under Medicare. This determination process can be lengthy, thereby creating a long period during which the future reimbursement for a particular product may be uncertain.
Outside the United States, particularly in member states of the European Union, the pricing of prescription drugs is subject to governmental control. In these countries, pricing negotiations or the successful completion of health technology assessment procedures with governmental authorities can take considerable time after receipt of marketing approval for a product. In addition, there can be considerable pressure by governments and other stakeholders on prices and reimbursement levels, including as part of cost containment measures. Certain countries allow companies to fix their own prices for medicines, but monitor and control company profits. Political, economic and regulatory developments may further complicate pricing negotiations, and pricing negotiations may continue after reimbursement has been obtained. Reference pricing used by various European Union member states and parallel distribution, or arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced member states, can further reduce prices. In some countries, we or our collaborators may be required to conduct a clinical trial or other studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of our RNA technology candidates to other available therapies in order to obtain or maintain reimbursement or pricing approval. Publication of discounts by third-party payors or authorities may lead to further pressure on the prices or reimbursement levels within the country of publication and other countries. If reimbursement of any product candidate approved for marketing is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, or if pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels, our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects could be adversely affected.
Recently enacted and future legislation, including potentially unfavorable pricing regulations or other healthcare reform initiatives, may increase the difficulty and cost for us to obtain marketing approval of and commercialize our product candidates and may negatively affect the prices we may obtain.
In the United States and some foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system that could prevent or delay marketing approval of our product candidates, restrict or regulate post-approval activities or affect our ability to profitably sell any product candidates for which we obtain marketing approval.
In the United States, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, or the Medicare Modernization Act, established the Medicare Part D program and provided authority for limiting the number of drugs that will be covered in any therapeutic class thereunder. The Medicare Modernization Act, including its cost reduction initiatives, could decrease the coverage and reimbursement rate that we receive for any of our approved products. Furthermore, private payors often follow Medicare coverage policies and payment limitations in setting their own reimbursement rates. Therefore, any reduction in reimbursement that results from the Medicare Modernization Act may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors.
The Affordable Care Act, among other things, imposes a significant annual fee on companies that manufacture or import branded prescription drug products. It also contains substantial new provisions intended to broaden access to health insurance, reduce or constrain the growth of health care spending, enhance remedies against healthcare fraud and abuse,
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add new transparency requirements for the healthcare and health insurance industries, and impose additional health policy reforms, any of which could negatively impact our business. The Affordable Care Act is likely to continue the downward pressure on pharmaceutical and medical device pricing, especially under the Medicare program, and may also increase our regulatory burdens and operating costs.
The new Trump administration and the leadership of the Republican majority in the U.S. Congress have spoken of their desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act and may seek to modify, repeal, or otherwise invalidate all, or certain provisions of, the Act. In December 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which includes a repeal of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, in October 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies to review regulations applicable to association health plans and short-term health insurance, and announced that the administration would halt federal subsidies to insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. There is significant uncertainty whether any other changes will occur. Any such changes will take time to unfold, and could have an impact on coverage and reimbursement for healthcare items and services covered by plans that were authorized by the Affordable Care Act. Such reforms could have an adverse effect on anticipated revenues from therapeutic candidates that we may successfully develop and for which we may obtain regulatory approval and may affect our overall financial condition and ability to develop therapeutic candidates. However, we cannot predict the ultimate content, timing or effect of any healthcare reform legislation or the impact of potential legislation on us. We expect that the Affordable Care Act, as well as other healthcare reform measures that have been and may be adopted in the future, may result in more rigorous coverage criteria and in additional downward pressure on the price that we receive for any approved product, and could seriously harm our future revenues. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare or other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payors. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may compromise our ability to generate revenue, attain profitability or commercialize our products.
Even if any of our product candidates receive regulatory approval, they may still face future development and regulatory difficulties and any approved products will be subject to extensive post-approval regulatory requirements.
If we obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, it would be subject to extensive ongoing requirements by the FDA, the EMA and foreign regulatory authorities governing the manufacture, quality control, further development, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, safety surveillance, import, export, advertising, promotion, recordkeeping and reporting of safety and other post-market information. The safety profile of any product will continue to be closely monitored by the FDA, the EMA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities after approval. If the FDA, the EMA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities become aware of new safety information after approval of any of our product candidates, these regulatory authorities may require labeling changes or establishment of a risk management strategy, impose significant restrictions on a product’s indicated uses or marketing, impose ongoing requirements for potentially costly post-approval studies or post-market surveillance or impose a recall.
In addition, manufacturers of therapeutic products and their facilities are subject to continual review and periodic inspections by the FDA, the EMA and other regulatory authorities for compliance with cGMP regulations. If we or a regulatory agency discover previously unknown problems with a product, such as adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or problems with the facility where the product is manufactured, a regulatory agency may impose restrictions on that product, the manufacturing facility or us, including requiring recall or withdrawal of the product from the market or suspension of manufacturing. If we, our product candidates or the manufacturing facilities for our product candidates fail to comply with applicable regulatory requirements, a regulatory agency may, among other things:
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The occurrence of any event or penalty described above may inhibit our ability to commercialize our products and generate revenue.
We are subject to anti-corruption laws, as well as export control laws, customs laws, sanctions laws and other laws governing our operations. If we fail to comply with these laws, we could be subject to civil or criminal penalties, other remedial measures and legal expenses, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our operations are subject to anti-corruption laws, including the U.K. Bribery Act 2010, or Bribery Act, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, and other anti-corruption laws that apply in countries where we do business and may do business in the future. The Bribery Act, FCPA and these other laws generally prohibit us, our officers, and our employees and intermediaries from bribing, being bribed or making other prohibited payments to government officials or other persons to obtain or retain business or gain some other business advantage. We intend to operate in a number of jurisdictions that pose a high risk of potential Bribery Act or FCPA violations, and we may participate in collaborations and relationships with third parties whose actions could potentially subject us to liability under the Bribery Act, FCPA or local anti-corruption laws. In addition, we cannot predict the nature, scope or effect of future regulatory requirements to which our international operations might be subject or the manner in which existing laws might be administered or interpreted.
We are also subject to other laws and regulations governing our international operations, including regulations administered by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States, and authorities in the European Union, including applicable export control regulations, economic sanctions on countries and persons, customs requirements and currency exchange regulations, collectively referred to as the Trade Control laws.
There is no assurance that we will be completely effective in ensuring our compliance with all applicable anti-corruption laws, including the Bribery Act, the FCPA or other legal requirements, including Trade Control laws. If we are not in compliance with the Bribery Act, the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws, we may be subject to criminal and civil penalties, disgorgement and other sanctions and remedial measures, and legal expenses, which could have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. Likewise, any investigation of any potential violations of the Bribery Act, the FCPA, other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws by U.K., U.S. or other authorities could also have an adverse impact on our reputation, our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If we receive regulatory approvals, we intend to market our product candidates in multiple jurisdictions where we have limited or no operating experience and may be subject to increased business and economic risks that could affect our financial results.
If we receive regulatory approvals, we plan to market our product candidates in jurisdictions where we have limited or no experience in marketing, developing and distributing our products. Certain markets have substantial legal and
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regulatory complexities that we may not have experience navigating. We are subject to a variety of risks inherent in doing business internationally, including:
If we are unable to manage our international operations successfully, our financial results could be adversely affected.
Recent federal legislation and actions by state and local governments may permit reimportation of drugs from foreign countries into the United States, including foreign countries where the drugs are sold at lower prices than in the United States, which could materially adversely affect our operating results.
We may face competition in the United States for our product candidates, if approved, from therapies sourced from foreign countries that have placed price controls on pharmaceutical products. In the United States, the Medicare Modernization Act contains provisions that may change U.S. importation laws and expand pharmacists’ and wholesalers’ ability to import cheaper versions of an approved drug and competing products from Canada, where there are government price controls. These changes to U.S. importation laws will not take effect unless and until the Secretary of the HHS certifies that the changes will pose no additional risk to the public’s health and safety and will result in a significant reduction in the cost of products to consumers. The Secretary of the HHS has so far declined to approve a reimportation plan. Proponents of drug reimportation may attempt to pass legislation that would directly allow
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reimportation under certain circumstances. Legislation or regulations allowing the reimportation of drugs, if enacted, could decrease the price we receive for any products that we may develop and adversely affect our future revenues and prospects for profitability.
The FDA, the EMA and other regulatory agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses. If we are found to have improperly promoted off-label uses, we may become subject to significant liability.
The FDA, the EMA and other regulatory agencies strictly regulate the promotional claims that may be made about prescription products if approved. In particular, a product may not be promoted for uses that are not approved by the FDA, the EMA or such other regulatory agencies as reflected in the product’s approved labeling. If we receive marketing approval for our product candidates, physicians may nevertheless prescribe them to their patients in a manner that is inconsistent with the approved label. If we are found to have promoted such off-label uses, we may become subject to significant liability.
In the United States, engaging in impermissible promotion of our products for off-label uses can also subject us to false claims litigation under federal and state statutes, which can lead to civil and criminal penalties and fines and agreements that materially restrict the manner in which we promote or distribute those products. These false claims statutes include the federal False Claims Act, which allows any individual to bring a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical or medical device company on behalf of the federal government alleging submission of false or fraudulent claims, or causing to present such false or fraudulent claims, for payment by a federal program such as Medicare or Medicaid. If the government prevails in the lawsuit, the individual will share in any fines or settlement funds. Since 2004, these False Claims Act lawsuits against pharmaceutical and medical device companies have increased significantly in volume and breadth, leading to several substantial civil and criminal settlements based on certain sales practices promoting off-label drug uses. This growth in litigation has increased the risk that a company will have to defend a false claim action, pay settlement fines or restitution, agree to comply with burdensome reporting and compliance obligations, and be excluded from the Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal and state healthcare programs. If we do not lawfully promote our approved products, we may become subject to such litigation and, if we are not successful in defending against such actions, those actions may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Adverse decisions of tax authorities or changes in tax treaties, laws, rules or interpretations could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
The tax laws and regulations in the Netherlands, the jurisdiction of our incorporation and our current resident state for tax purposes, may be subject to change and there may be changes in enforcement of tax law. Additionally, European and other tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to varying interpretations. We cannot be sure that our interpretations are accurate or that the responsible tax authority agrees with our views. If our tax positions are challenged by the tax authorities, we could incur additional tax liabilities, which could increase our costs of operations and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Further changes in the tax laws of the jurisdictions in which we operate could arise as a result of the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project being undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD, which represents a coalition of member countries that encompass certain of the jurisdictions in which we operate, is undertaking studies and publishing action plans that include recommendations aimed at addressing what they believe are issues within tax systems that may lead to tax avoidance by companies. It is possible that the jurisdictions in which we do business could react to the BEPS initiative or their own concerns by enacting tax legislation that could adversely affect us or our shareholders through increasing our tax liabilities.
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