PhRMA, our industry's trade association, released its most recent pipeline report on Thursday -- and the numbers are impressive. Among the highlights:
- More than 5,000 new medicines are in development (a 40 percent increase since 2005).
- Nearly 70 percent are potential "first in class" medicines -- meaning there is no other similar treatment in a category of treatment.
- More than 800 potential new medicines are in Phase III -- the final stage of testing.
- Roughly 60 percent of the new medicines under development are potential treatments for cancer.
The report underscores what can happen when the policy environment allows medical innovation to thrive. The update follows news earlier this month that the FDA approved more new medicines last year -- 39 -- than anytime in recent history.
Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, the current chairman of PhRMA, and PhRMA CEO John Castellani assessed the news Thursday during a webinar with media.
Castellani said the report should remind external stakeholders about the value of the biopharmaceutical business -- in effect, considering whether the benefits (potential breakthroughs for difficult-to-treat diseases) outweigh the costs. And Dr. Lechleiter -- who started at Lilly as a chemist more than 30 years ago -- underscored the importance of a health policy environment that nourishes these R&D results.
Of course, only a fraction of the 5,400 will eventually become available for patients. That 's the nature of drug discovery. But with more shots on goal, we have a better opportunity to find improved treatments for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and other difficult diseases. And a policy environment that includes strong intellectual property protections, a fair, rigorous, and transparent regulatory environment, and free market access for patients will allow our industry's work to continue.