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Suggestions that new drug numbers are falling rejected

21st February 2013

A research team from Birmingham University has refuted suggestions that the number of new medicines available to patients in the UK is declining.


Writing in the BMJ Open journal, they said the number of drugs introduced in recent decades has risen, despite suggestions to the contrary.

They used data in the British National Formulary guide on drugs to look at how many new medicines were added between 1971 and 2011.

Over the period, the average number of drugs introduced each year was just under 23, varying from nine in the lowest year to 34 in the highest.

Effectively, this means that there have been 0.16 more drugs being produced every year than there were in the 1970s.

Figures show a dip between 1998 and 2006 but they have risen since.

Report author Dr Derek Ward said when his team started the research there was pessimism within the industry and among pharmaceutical companies about the number of new drugs that were getting to the market but the figures showed that over the longer term there was a slight increase.

Dr Phil L'Huillier from Cancer Research Technology, part of Cancer Research UK, welcomed the findings, which he said were encouraging.

“Although the cost of developing drugs is accelerating, meaning that the number of drugs per pound invested in research and development is decreasing, there is a wealth of innovation in UK drug discovery,” he added.

Cancer Research Technology has recently launched a £50m fund to stimulate investment in drugs discovery in the UK.


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