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The usual concerns surrounding patent expiries, merger and acquisition activity, pricing issues and high R&D costs appear to be being held at bay by the surging size of the R&D pipeline and the record-breaking year for new drug introductions, according to research from Citeline’s Pharmaprojects.



In two free downloadable whitepapers published earlier this year (the Citeline Pharma R&D Annual Review 2015 and the New Active Substances Launched in 2014 supplement), Citeline analysed the current pipeline and the number of new active substances (NASs) it had delivered during 2014. We found the pipeline had grown by a sizeable 8.8% to 12,300 drugs in development, but even more remarkably, the industry had produced a massive 61 new drugs – the most ever for a single year. This far outstripped 2013’s 46 and the long-term average for the century so far of 36. This data was so encouraging that even the UK’s august newspaper the Financial Times (Paywall) was moved to comment on it in a piece published on 13th July entitled Blockbusters help revive pharma’s fortunes (Paywall).



In a Webinar in which Citeline discussed and expanded on the findings of the two reports, held in June this year, we decided to poll the webinar attendees, all of whom work in the pharma or related companies, to assess what their level of confidence was in the industry. We were interested in finding out whether those closest to drug development felt that the current data represented a freak spike, or whether there was more long-term confidence in the direction in which the industry is heading. It should be noted that this is a wholly unscientific poll which should be viewed with the traditional large pinch of salt, but the results make interesting reading nonetheless.



During the live Webinar, we asked the attendees, of which there were around 150, to vote on where they saw the overall pipeline size and the number of NAS launches heading during this year. The first poll posed the question: “How do you think the overall pipeline size will change during 2015?” and presented four options. The results are shown in Figure 1.



Figure 1: Webinar attendees’ responses to the question: How do you think the overall pipeline size will change during 2015?




While only 12.7% thought that the pipeline size would continue to grow through this year at the same rate, a huge majority of 71.8% felt that growth was still likely to continue. This contrasted with only around a quarter who thought that the size of the pharma R&D pipeline would stay around the same through 2015, and only a tiny 1.8% felt that we had reached a peak which would be followed by a decline.



Secondly, we were interested in whether our audience felt that the extraordinary number of NAS launches seen during 2014 was a one-off, or whether they felt that industry really was finally managing to raise its game in terms of delivering new drugs. The question presented here was: “How do you think the numbers of NAS launches in 2015 will fare compared to the record-breaking 2014 figure of 61?”



Strikingly, optimism was even greater here, with around two to one feeling that 2014 would not turn out to be anomalous, and would be equalled or even exceeded this year.



Figure 2: Webinar attendees’ responses to the question: How do you think the numbers of NAS launches in 2015 will fare compared to the record-breaking 2014 figure of 61?





While stressing again the non-scientific nature of this data, there does appear to be a remarkable level of confidence in this cohort’s view of their own industry. Maybe it’s the cynical Brit in me, but I felt that the responses, particularly to the second question, might be straying into a dangerous current of over-optimism. But they will certainly be interesting to revisit when we come to compile next year’s Pharma R&D Report and NAS Supplements, adding an extra frisson to Citeline’s popular annual round-ups of R&D trends. Stay tuned!

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