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Prospects for productivity


Long-term declines in the productivity of pharmaceutical R&D threaten the sustainability of the current business model. A major driver of the decline has been the rising cost, and increased rate of failure, of projects across the industry, caused in part by the confluence of new approaches, novel technologies, higher go/no-go hurdles and organizational challenges. Here we examine several of the top culprits that are charged with driving this decline and the merits of the cases against them, and speculate on the emerging trends that will underpin the industry's future productivity.

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Figure 1: A 30-year decline in industry productivity.
Figure 2: Less-validated targets and bigger, greasier molecules.
Figure 3: FDA's NDA approval rates have not changed much over time.
Figure 4: Big Pharma's shrinking contribution.
Figure 5: Clinical development is increasingly costly and constrained.
Figure 6: In-licensing will probably continue to grow in its importance as a source of innovation for Big Pharma.


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We would like to thank several McKinsey colleagues for their support and hard work in helping pull together the analyses in this review, including J. Hong, D. Lennon, P. Ma and E. McCafferty.

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Correspondence to Bruce Booth.

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Booth, B., Zemmel, R. Prospects for productivity. Nat Rev Drug Discov 3, 451–456 (2004).

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