More Billion-Dollar Drugs, Faster Approvals, and Other Pharmaceutical Trends

What’s been going on in the biopharmaceutical industry?

In the last 20 years, the average time for a drug to go from patent to market is 12.8 years.

This is according to a report published by STAT and QuintilesIMS that examined data from the biopharmaceutical industry. The report, which looked at a drug’s lifespan from its patent to when the maker no longer receives any revenue from it-and found several trends.

Related article: Health Spending to Reach Nearly 20% of GDP in 2025


The major takeaways from the report include:

  • From 1995-2015, 667 innovative biopharmaceuticals launched in the United States. The report mentions that 2008 saw a low point of only 19 launches, but the numbers have been steadily increasing with 47 in 2015. In 2016, only 19 novel drugs were approved by the FDA, but 2017 is on track to revert back to that growth trend.

  • Drugs for the treatment of cancer patients accounted for 11% of all launches between 1996 and 2000, but rose to 28% in the most recent five-year period.

  • Periods of drug exclusivity, when they no generic versions were available, average 13.5 years. The drugs that reached $1 billion annual U.S. sales had the longest exclusivity periods and averaged a 23-month longer exclusivity period, leading the report to suggest that these drugs “may reflect more intense efforts by the manufacturers of those commercially successful products to maintain protection.”

  • Only 19 drugs have reached the $1 billion annual sales mark within five years of introduction in the last 20 years. Nine of these drugs launched within the last five years, including the only four drugs that have ever surpassed $3 billion annual sales within their first five years.

  • A growing number of new drugs are taking more than five years to reach peak sales, perhaps indicating slower adoption rates of new drugs.

  • The U.S. market accounts for 61% of a new drug’s sales in its first five years, and that number reached 68% between 2011-2015.

Read the whole report here.