Medicines in the Pipeline

Explore the Drug Discovery Pipeline

Our growing understanding of human disease gives us the most promising platform ever to discover and develop medicines that treat disease in new ways. Today, more than 7,000 medicines are in development globally, all of which have the potential to help patients in the United States and around the world.  According to another data source, there are 3,400 medicines in development today just in the United States, an increase of 40 percent since 2005. The quantity and quality of new drugs in the pipeline reflect a robust research ecosystem. Both basic research and the biopharmaceutical pipeline are thriving. As a result, the potential for new treatments and cures for patients is unprecedented.

Biopharmaceutical researchers are working tirelessly to develop medicines that attack diseases in novel ways. They are exploring new scientific approaches while expanding their knowledge and understanding of human diseases. The increase in the number and variety of scientific tools over the last 20 years has enabled researchers to better understand the molecular and genetic bases of disease and to develop targeted treatments that work more precisely and effectively. Researchers are steadily applying this knowledge to a range of different diseases and conditions, and the result is unprecedented potential for improvements in human health around the world.

New Horizons in Personalized Medicine

Personalized medicine presents a new set of tools to help diagnose and treat patients based on our growing understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of disease. This approach is becoming more widespread, particularly in the treatment of cancer, and it holds potential to prevent disease, find the correct treatment more quickly, prevent side effects, improve patients’ quality of life, and treat disease more effectively. As the overall cost of health care continues to rise, personalized medicine could help to control costs by reducing unnecessary treatment and side effects.

The role of personalized medicine is growing. According to the Personalized Medicine Coalition, there were 13 prominent examples of personalized medicines, treatments, and diagnostics available in 2006; by 2011, there were 72. Likewise, a 2010 survey by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development found that companies saw a roughly 75 percent increase in personalized medicine investment between 2005 and 2010, and expected to see an additional 53 percent increase from 2010 to 2015. Of the companies surveyed, 94 percent of biopharmaceutical companies reported investing in personalized medicine research, and 12 percent to 50 percent of the products in their pipelines are personalized medicines 

The Biopharmaceutical Pipeline

The biopharmaceutical pipeline is innovative and robust, with a high proportion of potential first-in-class medicines and therapies targeting diseases with limited treatment options, according to a new report developed by the Analysis Group and supported by PhRMA.  The report reveals that more than 5,000 new medicines are in the pipeline globally. Of these medicines in various phases of clinical development, 70 percent are potential first-in-class medicines, which could provide exciting new approaches to treating disease for patients.

The proportion of projects in development which could become first-in-class varies by therapeutic category but is particularly high in areas such as neurology (84%), cancer (80%), and psychiatry (79%). The high number of medicines being researched in these areas likely reflects researchers’ growing knowledge of the underpinnings of these disease areas and new opportunities for advances.

Many of the new medicines in the pipeline are also for diseases for which no new therapies have been approved in the last decade.  For example, there are 158 potential medicines for ovarian cancer, 19 for sickle cell disease and 41 for small cell lung cancer.  Additionally, among other data in the report, the authors found that personalized medicines account for an increasing proportion of the pipeline, and the number of potential new medicines designated by the FDA for rare diseases averaged 140 per year in the last 10 years compared to 64 in the previous decade.

Commenting on the growing pipeline, John Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company has said, “Since 2005, the number of new medicines in development has grown by 40 percent.  Our industry has been able to advance scientific discovery—along with the roster of potential new medicines—thanks, in part, to a policy environment that enables medical innovation to flourish. Public policies that value intellectual property, a strong regulatory system, and free market access for patients are critical to maintaining a robust innovation ecosystem and continuing to make progress fighting disease."

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