Nearly a thousand potential future medicines are in the research and development pipeline of some 50 companies operating in the UK, a survey by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) shows. But the news was tempered with a warning that the right environment must be reinforced if the research-based industry is to continue to flourish in the UK.
Just over 950 compounds are in pre-registration clinical development in 2006, compared with 561 compounds being researched when the ABPI conducted its last survey, published in 2002.
The research offers patients fresh hope in nearly 50 disease areas, including the Government’s key priority areas – although the report warns that many of these compounds will not make it through the stringent, 12-year development period.
“This report shows the medicines pipeline is stronger than ever before, and that there are many exciting prospects in a wide variety of therapeutic areas, including some of humanity’s toughest disease challenges,” said Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI.
“However, research must be nurtured. Far more medicines are developed in the UK than its market scale would imply, and among the reasons for this are the stability offered by a five-year agreement on pricing coupled with a flexible pricing structure.”
The figures – published in the ABPI publication the A-Z of Medicines Research – show that the pharmaceutical industry accounted for more than 60 per cent of R&D investment in UK medical research during 2004-05.
Industry investment has grown steadily over time, and especially so in the past two decades. Annual surveys by the Office of National Statistics show that total R&D expenditure by the industry in the UK, including capital investment, has risen from £475 million in 1984 to £3,308 million in 2005.
“One of the key facts about medicines research is that advance is not usually made through sudden leaps in knowledge but through small but vital steps in the advance of our understanding of a condition and how to treat it,” said Dr Barker.
“If we relied solely on breakthroughs, our overall achievements would be less - each of those 950 compounds in development has the potential to lead to a small but significant improvement to the treatment of disease – and, over time, we shall be able to look back and see how far we have come.
“It would be incorrect and unrealistic to assume that, by some miraculous process, we jump the various stages of development and to create the ‘perfect’ medicine for a disease. The ‘first of kind’ medicine is rarely the ‘best of kind’ that offers patients the best treatment.”
Of the compounds in development, 362 are in Phase 1 clinical trials, involving non-patient human volunteers; 349 in Phase 2; involving a small number of patients; and 240 in Phase 3, with a larger number of patients.
Overall, the largest number of compounds are being developed for cancer (170), cardiovascular diseases (109), mental disorders (62), diseases of the endocrine system (59), respiratory diseases (53) and dementia (20).
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410