Friday, September 04, 2009

Pharmaceutical productivity

It is widely believed that the United States has eclipsed Europe in pharmaceutical research productivity. Indeed the subject has been raised on this blog. Now a paper has appeared online which scotches that opinion.

The table shows that nearly half of all 'new chemical entities' (or new drugs) were produced by European companies over a 20 year period from 1982 to 2003.

There are some biases attached to this chart, the main one being that new drugs are assigned to where the company's headquarters are. A good example of how this distorts the table would be Viagra which was discovered in Sandwich, Kent in the UK. But the laboratories where it was discovered were owned by Pfizer, an American drug company, so it goes down as an American discovery.

The big change over the past year has been the amount of money invested in pharmaceutical research, and here American companies have taken the lead: The picture
shows that between 1990 and 2000, American funding for pharmaceutical research went from 5.3 billion euros to 23.1 billion euros, while European funding only rose from 7.8 billion to 17.8 billion.

Just as with the American health service, we have to ask whether America is getting value for money. The final graph shows that it is not. The graph shows productivity or innovation proportionate to investment (if you like bangs per buck). You see that for all products productivity in the USA fell by 25% while it rose by 30% in Europe. If we consider only the 'first-in-class' drugs - that means excluding all those me-too medicines - the the discrepancy is the same: a fall in the US of 25% and a rise in Europe of 36%.

There are areas where America excels, particularly biotechnology, but if the question is asked where would the world be without American innovation, the answer is plain.

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