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March 7, 2018

THIS IS NOT THE 21ST CENTURY I WAS HOPING FOR: How Stale Is Innovation in Drug Discovery? Think: 5-Year-Old Yogurt.

Nearly all of Big Pharma is riding on fumes, it seems.

On average, the 30 large and small pharmaceutical and biotech companies IDEA Pharma examined got just 11% of their 2017 revenue from drugs developed within the past five years, says Mike Rea, the firm’s CEO and one of the most insightful people I’ve met—no exaggeration—when it comes to pinpointing innovation choke points in the drug industry. Take out Gilead and Biogen from the mix and the group average drops to 8.1%. Nineteen of these 30 companies, meanwhile, got less than 7% of sales in the last calendar year from “new” products, says Rea.

“I’ve heard several arguments over the years about how this doesn’t really matter, but I believe it does,” writes Rae in his LinkedIn post. “One of the issues we face, as an industry, is the familiar reputation/ pricing issue. But the real issue on pricing is the year-on-year rises on old drugs—the deflection is to talk about new drug prices, but the sleight of hand is on the double digit rises taken every year on the portfolio staples. Without those rises, however, just imagine how those companies with no new blood to talk about would be doing…?

Maybe we need to look at shortening the 20-year patent on new drugs, which might be encouraging complacency instead of innovation.