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Can the pharmaceutical industry reduce attrition rates?


The pharmaceutical industry faces considerable challenges, both politically and fiscally. Politically, governments around the world are trying to contain costs and, as health care budgets constitute a very significant part of governmental spending, these costs are the subject of intense scrutiny. In the United States, drug costs are also the subject of intense political discourse. This article deals with the fiscal pressures that face the industry from the perspective of R&D. What impinges on productivity? How can we improve current reduced R&D productivity?

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Figure 1: Success rates from first-in-man to registration.
Figure 2: Success rate by phase of development and by therapeutic area.
Figure 3: Reasons for attrition (1991–2000).


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We wish to acknowledge Datamonitor for the assembly of data (Pharmaceutical R&D Benchmarking Forum) used in this study.

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Correspondence to Ismail Kola Ph.D. (Med).

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Competing interests

I.K. is an employee of Merck & Co., Inc., and has financial interests in Merck, Pfizer Inc. and Schering-Plough Corp. J.L. is an employee of Schering-Plough Corp. and has financial interests in Schering-Plough and Pfizer Inc.

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Kola, I., Landis, J. Can the pharmaceutical industry reduce attrition rates?. Nat Rev Drug Discov 3, 711–716 (2004).

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