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Welcome to Pharmaprojects’ roundup of key trends in pharmaceutical R&D in 2018, focusing on five key takeaways from our full annual report. Read on to discover the statistics defining the industry in the year so far - from the firms leading the field to gaps in the market that are yet to be exploited.


1) Pipeline size has slowed between 2017 and 2018, but overall growth remains strong:

The total pipeline size for 2018 stands at 15,267, an all-time high which makes this the seventh consecutive year of expansion.

The graph below shows the total number of candidates in the R&D pipeline as of January 2018, and how this has changed since the start of the century. By pipeline, we mean that we are counting all drugs in development by pharmaceutical companies, from those at the preclinical stage, through the various stages of clinical testing and regulatory approval, up to and including launch. Launched drugs are still counted, but only if they are in still in development for additional indications or markets.

Total R&D pipeline size by year, 2001–18

Total R&D pipeline size by year, 2001–18 l Pharma Intelligence

2) Novartis cements pole pipeline position for another year, but Johnson & Johnson is closing the gap:

One of the most anticipated charts in our Pharma R&D Review is the list of companies with the biggest pipelines. It’s to Switzerland that we look for our top company, with Novartis cementing pole position for a second year.

Pharma companies by size of pipeline:

Pharma companies by size of pipeline l Pharma Intelligence

3) Big companies are narrowing their focus:

Portfolios among the top 10 pharma firms are becoming less diverse as their pipeline focus narrows to three or four disease areas - even the very largest firms.                               

While growth is sustained in many therapeutic areas, several have seen declines this year. Cancer stands out with a 7.6% increase in the number of candidates, a growth rate which is close to three times that of the overall pipeline.

The R&D pipeline by therapy group, 2017 and 2018

The R&D pipeline by therapy group, 2017 and 2018 l Pharma Intelligence

4) Cancer dominates therapeutic categories, Prophylactic vaccines continue to hang on in the top 3:

As has been the case for a number of years, two cancer categories take the leading two positions, both posting increases year-on-year. Anti-infective prophylactic vaccines complete the top three, although it appears that this category is now in decline.

Each of the therapeutic areas has within it several therapeutic categories, which we use to classify drugs at a more specific level. There are 234 of these, and the table below shows the top 25.


Top 25 therapeutic categories

Top 25 therapeutic categories l Pharma Intelligence

5) Cancer dominates drug development whilst others miss out:

The previously noted ongoing growth of oncology-focused R&D has this year led to cancer indications accounting for 13 of the top 20 places, seven of the top 10, and for the first time, all of the top five.

Ovarian cancer (up 12.4%), brain cancer (12.1%), and acute myelogenous leukaemia (14.4%) have all made significant advances, but the top two of breast and non-small cell lung cancer both demonstrated double-digit percentage increases themselves (up 11.2% and 14.0%, respectively). Significantly, all of the cancer indications in the Top 25 grew their pipelines.

Dropping down the table this year are three diseases all with an autoimmune/inflammation component: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and asthma. Elsewhere in the top 10, both type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease stuttered.

The below table lists the 25 diseases which have the most drugs in development, out of a total of over 1,400 diseases included in our classification.

Top 25 diseases/indications

Top 25 diseases/indications l Pharma Intelligence

Access additional R&D statistics, graphs, analysis and more

For a comprehensive and unabridged analysis of research and development in 2018, find out how to access our full Pharma R&D Annual Review here.


Read also


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