Developing new medicines

Woman smiling, holding a medicine container

​It takes over 12 years to develop a new medicine to the standards of quality, efficacy and safety laid down by legislation. It typically costs £1.15 billion to do all the research and development necessary before a new medicine can be licensed for use.

The majority of medicines under development never make it to the market; following thorough studies, they may be found to have unacceptable side effects, or they don’t work any better than existing treatments.

Timeline of medicine development

For every marketed medicine that makes enough money to pay for its development, about 25,000 chemical compounds were tested, on average 25 of these will have gone into clinical trials and five received approval for marketing.

Our timeline of medicine development shows the stages a medicine has to pass through before it can be approved for marketing.

For more facts and figures about the pharmaceutical industry in the UK visit the Knowledge hub section of this website.

By law, all new medicines must first be tested on animals, in order to ensure patient safety, learn more in the Animals and medicines research section.

Research and development

The pharmaceutical industry globally invests more in research and development  R&D) than any other industry – £13.3 million every day. The pharmaceutical industry employs around 23,000 people in R&D in the UK (OHE calculations based on ONS, 'Business enterprise research and development' (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) acccessed March 2013.

To learn more about the way medicines are developed and the people involved, visit the ABPI Careers website at

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