It is a golden age for pharmaceuticals research, but not for the pharmaceuticals industry. In terms of powerful new treatments, the global drug business is stronger than ever, but that wave of innovation is proving slow to feed through to the bottom line.
In the United States in 2017, there were more than 50 new approvals – a record – for active substances, vaccines and drug therapies. But growth in the global pharma business continues to be sluggish, with the industry facing intense price pressure and the expiration of lucrative patents.
All told, the industry saw about 2 percent total revenue growth last year. In the first nine months of the year, the 20 leading pharma firms were collectively stagnant, with growth of less than 1 percent, if acquisition effects are discounted.
Headline figures conceal substantial differences across the industry. The big winners of 2017 include the American firms Abbvie, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and Eli Lilly, each of which managed more than 10 percent revenue growth. Some German firms also did well, with Boehringer expecting 8 percent to 9 percent growth and Bayer 5 percent. In September, the Merck Group announced revenues up almost 6 percent, along with two approvals arising from in-house research.