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Understanding Recent Trends in Pharmaceutical R&D

Challenges for the Pharmaceutical Industry in the 21st Century

In recent years the environment in which the pharmaceutical industry operates has become ever more competitive. Companies large and small face tremendous pressures to increase output and remain innovative in the face of mega-mergers, rising health care costs, cost-containment initiatives, changing population demographics and the rapid emergence of new technologies.

This has driven many major pharmaceutical companies to continue to considerably increase their R&D expenditure in order to boost their pipelines and keep pace with their rivals in the race for scale. This is consistent with the view that to continue to satisfy shareholder expectations it is unlikely to be enough for pharmaceutical companies to continue with the status quo. However, the average cost of bringing a new active substance (NAS) to market (most recently estimated at US$600 million) (1), and the declining number of NASs launched in most recent years (2), illustrate the scale of this challenge.

The cost of US$600 million per NAS launched includes a significant contribution from the costs of all NASs that fail during the R&D process. In order to try and reduce this high attrition cost, many companies have put portfolio management systems into place. As development projects consume up to 10 times the resources required for a research project, particular emphasis has been placed on project selection and prioritisation, before entry into the development process. For individual companies, the costs per NAS will be affected by the company's characteristics, including its product profile, the type of technology it uses, and the type of activities it chooses to conduct in-house and those it chooses to outsource (3).


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By Dr Faiz Kermani and Dr Gordon Findlay of CMR International

Dr Faiz Kermani joined CMR International as a Research Associate in October 1999 from Imperial College, London, where he was carrying out postdoctoral research in immunology. Previously, he obtained a PhD in Immunopharmacology from St. Thomas' Hospital, London, and a First Class Honours Degree in Pharmacology with Toxicology from King's College, London. Faiz has also worked as a Research Analyst for Danish health care company, Informedica a/s, writing on European and North American health care issues.

Dr Gordon Findlay joined CMR International in January 1997 from the University of Bristol Medical School, where he held a postdoctoral research fellowship. Previously, he gained a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Kent at Canterbury, and a First Class Honours Degree in Biochemistry and Immunology from the University of Strathclyde.

His current position within CMR International is Manager of Strategy and Planning.


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Dr Faiz Kermani
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Dr Gordon Findlay
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