Europe is pulling ahead of the US in research productivity, according to a controversial new study by Washington public policy think tank Health Affairs.
The “Global Drug Discovery: Europe is Ahead” report, which is based on analysis of all new chemical entities (NCEs) approved between 1982 and 2003, suggests that, contrary to popular opinion, the US has never overtaken Europe in terms of research productivity.
Author Donald Light argues that although studies like Graboski et al (1) purport to show that “US firms overtook their European counterparts in innovative performance,” his reanalysis of their data shows that it “actually document[s] the greater and increasing research productivity in Europe.”
Light also suggests that several European Commission studies focusing on the same period had reached the same conclusion “despite little solid evidence,” citing a 2008 study by Stolk et al (2) as the basis of his opinion
He goes on to say that belief in the dominance of the US drug research industry is “motivating companies to develop and market drugs that add little value, instead of rewarding true added value.”
The full Health Affairs report can be read here .
Predictably, Light’s conclusions have not been warmly received in the US. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) senior vice president Ken Johnson issued a firm rebuttal of the idea that Europe is ahead.
He said that: “Unfortunately, the paper paints a distorted picture that gives short shrift to the medical advances made possible by [US] pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies and ignores the chilling effect of government price controls on such innovation.”
“In the not-too-distant past, the US was not the world’s medicine chest. A number of changes, including Congressional action, helped to foster a more vibrant biopharmaceutical industry”
Johnson contrasted this with what he described as “European leaders’ embrace of ill-conceived public policies” which he said had “chilled innovation on that continent and raised doubts among private investors.”
The full PhRMA response can be viewed here .
- H.G. Grabowski and Y.R. Wang. "The Quantity and Quality of Worldwide New Drug Introductions, 1982-2003," Health Affairs 25, no. 2 (2006): 452-460.
- 19. P. Stolk and D.W. Light, "Did the U.S. Eclipse European Research Productivity? An Analysis of Major Reports as Searchlights in the Fog," Report to TI Pharma Escher Project (Utrecht: University of Utrecht, 2008).