What can a close look at a 20-year lifespan of medicines tell us about the drug industry?

Over the past 20 years (1996 to 2015), over 700 New Active Substances (NASs) have successfully been discovered, developed and authorized for use in patients. A total of 667 innovative biopharmaceuticals have been authorized by the U.S. FDA and launched in the United States.

The U.S. market remains the most crucial to biopharmaceutical innovation, accounting for more than 61% of a new drug’s sales over its first five years following launch, and 68% for the cohort of launches in the 2011–15 period.

Meanwhile, over the course of this two-decade period, the political and public narrative on drug pricing and affordability in America has amplified. Whereas, the drug industry has maintained its position all-the-while that policies like foreign reference pricing and letting Medicare negotiate prices would harm innovation. But a closer examination over the two-decade period reveals nearly three quarters of the molecules were launched by a company different from the one that filed the original patent.

While there is certain merit to industry claims that drug discovery is an expensive and risky endeavour, the actual source of innovation is more complex than it appears at first glance.

An overview of lifetime trends in biopharmaceutical innovation via the IQVIA Institute Report