LONDON (Reuters) - Drugmakers still rely heavily on sales from an aging portfolio of products and the proportion of sales from newer medicines actually fell last year, after a decade of record research spending yielded few new winners.
The 2010 Pharmaceutical R&D Factbook, compiled by CMR International, a Thomson Reuters business, and released on Monday, painted a gloomy picture of the global pharmaceuticals sector.
New drugs launched within the last five years accounted for less than 7 percent of industry sales in 2009, down from 8 percent in 2008, the Factbook showed, highlighting the big problems that companies are having in trying to reinvigorate their portfolios.
Many companies — including Pfizer Inc, GlaxoSmithKline Plc and AstraZeneca Plc — have been taking a knife to research operations in a bid to improve returns, a trend which analysts expect to gather momentum this year and next.
As a result total research and development (R&D) expenditure dropped by 0.3 percent in 2009, after a 6.6 percent rise in 2008 and rapid growth seen in earlier years.
A total of 26 new molecular entities (NMEs) were launched onto the global market in 2009, an increase on 2008’s 20-year low of 21. But the number of launches last year was still only a little more than half the peak level in 1997.
“The latest data shows that poor productivity in 2009 continued to be exacerbated by the low success rate for drugs in late stage development and a decline in sales from new drugs launched within the last five years,” said Hans Poulsen, head of consulting at CMR International.
“The increase in NME launches compared with 2008 offers some positive news. However, with data indicating a continued drop in overall success rates, it remains to be seen if the industry can reverse a 10-year trend in declining R&D output.”
CMR said the number of experimental drug projects terminated at the final Phase III stage of development had doubled in the period 2007-2009 compared with 2004-2006.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Holmes