Death of the Blockbuster Drug

The current NEJM has a good piece on the death of the blockbuster drug. The threefold argument:

  1. It is ever-rarer for one drug to be the only one in its class. The average new drug in the 1970s enjoyed 10.2-years of market exclusivity, while that is now down to 1.2 years.
  2. Even with healthcare, not everyone can afford all prescription medications
  3. The blockbuster model relies on the proposition that one drug size fits all, which is less true than ever

Provocative stuff.

Related posts:

  1. Drug Development is Broken, Part II
  2. The Blockbuster Model of Drugs is Dead
  3. The Failure of Target-Oriented Drug Discovery
  4. Carl Icahn vs. Blockbuster: Boom! Zap! Pow!
  5. Pfizer’s Failure and the Future of Drug Development


  1. Shefaly says:

    Pity, NEJM clamps on any more than 100-words of abstract withing seconds of publishing it.
    From reading your summarised points:
    1. Surely there is a greater case for prevention which is increasingly the case both in the UK and the US. However prevention relies heavily on education/ awareness and the willingness of individuals to engage in prolonged (perceived) self-denial for the promise of good health somewhere down the line. Analyses of BRFSS data have shown that fewer than 3% of Americans stick to the 4 basic rules of good health. Does this mean more and more people will simply die ot illness?
    2. May be true, but while over 200 firms are researching (reportedly) pharmacogenomic drugs, not one is close to a commercial product. The regulatory models are equally unclear. So this may not come to pass so soon.
    Meanwhile the rumours of the death of the blockbuster may be a tad exaggeretd..

  2. Couple more quick comments:
    - While prices are declining, time-alone-on-market is falling, etc., the other side is that massive new therapeutic markets are emerging as people in other countries fall into Western patterns of bad eating and unhealthy living
    - Pace Shefaly’s pharmacogenomic comment above, personalized medicines are and remain a pipedream
    - It is hard to take claims of disappearing blockbusters seriously when we are so bad at predicting current blockbusters. The favorite example remains v-word anti-impotence drug, which famously was originally targeted an altogether different indication

  3. Shefaly says:

    “..the other side is that massive new therapeutic markets are emerging as people in other countries fall into Western patterns of bad eating and unhealthy living”
    In Marketing 101, one of the first things I learnt years ago was “demand = need backed by purchasing power”. There will be a lot of need for therapeutics in these emerging markets, but will there be an ability to pay? Just like there is a great need for an AIDS vaccine in Africa, also the poorest people.
    Perverse frameworks are no help either. The compulsory licensing provisos in the Doha round mean profit-seeking companies will probably seek to target profitable niches instead of mass markets with a threat overhanging of possible compulsory licensing.
    As for the original V-research, well, great are the joys of serendipity, and of additional data. Even thalidomide is back with new dermatological indications, and hence a renewed lease of life, isn’t it?