Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Approval of New Drugs Plummets. Guess Why.

Last year, just 19 new drugs were approved by the FDA. That’s three less than the number approved in 2006 and the lowest number in 24 years (in 1983, only 13 new drugs were approved), reports Bloomberg.

What happened to the U.S. as a leader of innovation?

Drug companies blame the FDA for raising approval standards. The FDA of course denies the claim.

One industry watcher, Kenneth I. Kaitin, director of the Tufts University Center for the Study of Drug Development in Boston, suggests drug companies are focusing on finding new uses for the drugs they already have instead of innovating. The problem with that, according to Kaitin: “If you're putting money into extending the lifecycle of a drug on the market, you're taking money away from a drug development program.''

But is coming up with new uses for drugs the only culprit here? According to a recent York University Study, ad spending is also killing innovation. “A new study by two York University researchers estimates the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development,” reports ScienceDaily.

In 2004, the last year for which data is available, drug companies spent $57.5 million on advertising. That’s $61 thousand for each physician.

“The study’s findings supports the position that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is marketing-driven and challenges the perception of a research-driven, life-saving, pharmaceutical industry.”

Oh well. These companies do have shareholders (which are a pathetically impatient bunch). So job one for them is immediately boosting earnings per share. If drug makers happen to get some research done and squeeze out a life-saver in the process, great. Look, we’re not saying that’s a perfect (or even a healthy) system, it’s just the system we have.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.