After Years of Declining R&D Productivity, Drug Development Is Poised to Take Off, According to Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development

January 17, 2006

Applied Clinical Trials

Key to improving R&D productivity is the willingness of drug developers to use new discovery tools, such as pharmacogenomics, to accelerate the pace of translating basic research into viable drug candidates, and the aggressive management of clinical trials, through advanced data analysis and outsourcing, to lower cost sites around the world, said Tufts CSDD Director Kenneth I Kaitin.

BOSTON – Jan. 17, 2006 – Following years of declining R&D productivity, during which fewer new drugs received marketing approval in the United States, drug developers are poised to reverse the trend, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.

Key to improving R&D productivity is the willingness of drug developers to use new discovery tools, such as pharmacogenomics, to accelerate the pace of translating basic research into viable drug candidates, and the aggressive management of clinical trials, through advanced data analysis and outsourcing, to lower cost sites around the world, said Tufts CSDD Director Kenneth I Kaitin.

The comments were made in connection with the release today of the Tufts Center's Outlook 2006 report on drug and biotech development trends.

"As drug development has become more complex and expensive, developers have concentrated their resources on fewer projects. This, in turn, has lead to fewer new drug approvals in the last few years," said Kaitin.

"Turning this around will require the industry, working with regulators, to embrace strategies and technologies that will enhance development of more complex drugs of high therapeutic value while improving assessments of product safety and effectiveness. It's a tall order, but it can be done."

"As drug development becomes more complex and expensive, developers tend to concentrate available resources on fewer projects," said Kaitin. "Fewer development projects, in turn, lead to fewer new drug approvals."

According to Tufts CSDD, only 58 new drugs in 2002-04 received marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a 47% drop from the peak of 110 new drugs in the 1996-98 period.

Kaitin noted that the research-based drug industry faces significant challenges, among them: safety concerns in the U.S., which have made regulators more cautious about the drugs they approve; increasing public anxiety over the industry's ability to develop new vaccines in sufficient quantities at the right time to fight potential pandemics; and ever rising end-user drug prices, which have fueled public distrust of the industry.

Other near-term trends cited in the Tufts CSDD's Outlook 2006 report:

  • Drug developers will increase their reliance on licensing and outsourcing strategies and co-development agreements between large and small firms to boost R&D productivity.
  • Use of e-clinical technologies will grow rapidly at investigative sites, propelled in part by increased regulatory support for data interchange standards, consolidation in the vendor market, and improved e-technology functionality and technical support.
  • The FDA will increase its demand and boost its capacity for monitoring industry post-marketing commitments, while encouraging drug sponsors to formulate and implement their own risk management plans.
  • Biotech companies developing therapeutic and vaccine products will increasingly seek U.S. fast track designation to help accelerate clinical development programs.
  • More prescription-to-over-the-counter switches (Rx-to-OTC) will occur in 2006 as pressure grows on the FDA to allow them.

About the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (http://csdd.tufts.edu) at Tufts University provides strategic information to help drug developers, regulators, and policy makers improve the quality and efficiency of pharmaceutical development, review, and utilization. Tufts CSDD, based in Boston, conducts a wide range of in-depth analyses on pharmaceutical issues and hosts symposia, workshops, and public forums on related topics, and publishes the Tufts CSDD Impact Report, a bi-monthly newsletter providing analysis and insight into critical drug development issues.