PHILADELPHIA — Drug makers will focus on patient-specific therapies instead of drugs designed for use by a broad range of people over the next decade, according to a new report released Thursday by Thomson Reuters.
The report, titled "The Changing Role of Chemistry in Drug Discovery" and based on drug industry productivity, patent data and other dynamics and trends, was released in recognition of the International Year of Chemistry 2011.
The report found that while sales of drugs have increased more than twofold since 2000, it takes 20% longer to get new drugs to market, which will lead drug makers to use innovative new development strategies. Meanwhile, the high cost of developing new drugs will encourage companies to pursue an old-drugs-for-new policy by repurposing existing therapies for new uses; the report found that repurposed drugs had grown from about 80 in 2001 to 222 by 2010. Other trends on the horizon include a growing role for biotech drugs, greater use of biomarkers in drug development that indicates an increased focus on personalized medicine and specialized patient selection and more patenting in China, India and Korea.
"This report suggests a fundamental change in the drug-discovery process, opening up new ways of working and collaborating for companies, nations and academia alike," Thomson Reuters EVP life sciences business Jon Brett-Harris said.
With the expiration of patent protection for Pfizer's cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium), not to mention the expiration of patents for numerous other blockbuster drugs in 2012 and beyond as part of the patent cliff, many analysts have predicted that the blockbuster era of drug development is at an end. This approaching trend spurred traditional drug companies like Pfizer and Merck to pursue development of specialty drugs, especially biologics, by acquiring Wyeth and Schering-Plough, respectively. The patent cliff will affect generic companies as well, giving them an ever shrinking pool of billion-dollar drugs from which to reap large profits. In response, many are pursuing development of biosimilars, knockoff versions of biotech drugs. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Hospira and Sandoz have led in this regard and already market biosimilars in Europe, while Watson recently announced a deal with Amgen to develop biosimilars, and Mylan also has expressed interest.