I used to give a presentation…five years or so ago…about productivity in the pharmaceutical industry. I had a slide showing the number of new drug applications (NDAs) approved by US FDA year on year. The answer was 21. For a period of 5 years the number of NDAs approved each year was 21…give or take.
My message then? Precedent suggested the pharmaceutical industry would achieve between 20 and 25 approved NDAs per year moving forward.
My message now? I was wrong. Two years ago – 2012 – the number was 35 and in 2014 it was a whopping 41. The highest number since the halcyon days of the mid 90’s.
Everyone will have opinions as to why this improvement has happened…common themes range from biologic therapies and personalised medicine to increased innovation and rise of emerging biotech.
Me? I am just glad I was wrong, so proud of our industry and so pleased for patients. The quality of the new drugs and their impact on life-threatening diseases such as cancer, is nothing short of breath-taking.
I found myself thinking about my old presentation and this impressive recent performance last week when I was asked to participate in an internal ‘Town Hall’ meeting. We had two other internal presenters lined up…and I was lucky enough to see their slides before I finalised mine.
What I saw was as impressive as it was engaging, as moving as it was inspiring. I saw stories of new and investigational drugs that we are working with partners to develop. None are on the market yet, and all the presentations were exclusively internal, but the impact on me was palpable. This is what we can do. We can uniquely help our partners bring new medicines to patients.
We do many other amazing things as well, as we partner to improve health and healthcare more widely, but the stories I read were focussed on new medicines. And I was going to have to stand up and follow these stories in our Twon Hall meeting.
I read the slides and watched the videos a couple of times that evening as I looked for inspiration. And they were indeed inspiring. I felt so good about what we can do. I felt so proud of our teams and of our partner companies. But I also felt like I had no idea what I could possibly say when it came to my turn.
I went and made myself a coffee. A different room. A different view. And then it hit me. I dashed back to my computer and found the analysis I was after. I even left my coffee behind.
One of my colleagues had sponsored the internal research I was after, and searching for his name, combined with FDA, quickly found the email I was after with the data I needed. Five minutes later my slides were ready. Ten minutes later I was re-heating that coffee.
The Town Hall was everything I knew it would be. Our two presenters were amazing; their stories were emotional and inspirational. The audience was absorbed by both presenters and presentations.
And then it was me. Even now I am amazed by the information I was able to share. They were not my data, nor my work. I just put the numbers on the slide.
Of those 41 NDAs approved by FDA in 2014, we carried out work – in partnership with the innovator company – on over 60%…more than 25 of the 41.
I was stunned. I still am. Other companies may have done more, and others will have done less. But each new drug approved is a minor miracle. Miracles we help discover and we help develop.
I feel good.