>> The number of new drugs approved in the US more than doubled in 2017. 46 new medicines passed Food and Drug Administration reviews last year, hitting a 21 year high. Among them, a cancer drug from AstraZeneca, targeting a specific protein in the body's immune system. The FDA has taken advantage of policy changes in recent years to accelerate the drug approval process.
The agency's breakthrough therapy designation has cut review times. The 46 new medicines in the US do not include the new wave of cell and gene therapies that were approved in 2017 under a separate category. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb hailed these products as a whole new scientific paradigm for the treatment of serious diseases.
The European Union also saw an increase as 92 new drugs were approved, up from 81 the year before. But what about the price? The majority of drugs that got the green light in 2017 were for rare diseases and cancer. These target relatively small populations and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There is some worry among the drug makers as well. Two medicines a approved this year to treat diabetes entered an already crowded market. The competition gives government and insurers ammunition to drive down prices. And with new products coming from younger bio tech companies, projected returns from research and development are down.
Consulting firm Deloitte projects returns at 12 of the world's top drug makers were at an eight year low.