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Where Are All The New Drugs?

3/9/2009 7:48:28 AM

LONDON – Monday, 9th March 2009 – The pharmaceutical industry is fast running out of steam in terms of new drug launches, according to research conducted by the industry’s flagship news journal, Scrip World Pharmaceutical News. Although the number of new drugs reaching their first markets rose by more than 20% year on year with 31 new active substances (NASs) during 2008, this rosy-sounding performance belies the truth: that 2007’s performance was dismal and that the numbers for this decade spell danger ahead.

“Our annually-published NAS report comes from original research which confirms that industry productivity is not what it used to be,” says Alex Shimmings, Editor of Scrip World Pharmaceutical News. “This is a key problem for the industry as it faces a ‘patent cliff’ because it’s not producing enough new drugs to replace those being lost to generic competition.”

“The alarming news is that this trend is not a one or two year blip; it is evident in numbers for the whole of this decade,” explains Shimmings. “During the 90’s, the industry could be relied upon to produce around 40 NASs each year; the average for the last seven years is 29.”

Shimmings says some consolation can be taken from the fact that a significant number of this year’s new drugs represent innovative treatments in areas of high unmet medical need. In addition, 2008 was also notable for the introduction of some of a new raft of anticoagulants under development for a range of cardiovascular disorders. However, these are practically the only products set for multi-billion dollar sales and there were no novel anti-cancers launched last year – despite the recent explosion of R&D in this area.

UCB, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Genzyme each had a brace of launches while Wyeth, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck & Co, Bayer, Pfizer and Schering Plough each introduced one new product. Notable for their absence from this list were the Swiss multinationals, Novartis and Roche and the top ten pharma companies accounted for just nine of the new launches.

“There has been concern about the lack of new drugs for some time and the conclusions evident from this research should keep alarm bells ringing through the industry and beyond,” says Shimmings. “We all need these companies to drive the development and introduction of drugs that will save lives.”

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