Drug development crisis linked to bad technology choices, experts argue

The search for new medicines is becoming unsustainably expensive despite huge technological advances because researchers are using the wrong methods, experts say. They say drug discovery should focus on 'validity' - how well the results of experiments predict results in sick people. Instead, it has focused on methods that are easy to industrialize or methods that are academically fashionable.

In a report published in the journal PLOS ONE, Jack Scannell, from Oxford University's Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation, and consultant Jim Bosley approach drug discovery using mathematical tools that are used by economists to study decision making. They show that the chance of discovering an effective drug is surprisingly sensitive to the validity of the experimental methods. Small changes in validity can have a bigger effect than running 10 or even 100 times more experiments.

They argue that productivity has declined because the most predictive methods lead to the discovery of good drugs, and research in those areas stops (e.g., stomach ulcers). This leaves scientists working on as-yet-untreated diseases using less predictive discovery methods (e.g., Alzheimer's). They also suggest that changing industrial and scientific fashions have contributed to the problem.

The result: Methods have become less predictive over time, worse decisions have been made, and the cost of discovery has gone up.

Drug approvals have increased since 2012. The researchers say that this is likely down to the rising use of genetic information which improves the validity of the methods to discover treatments for rare diseases, though less so for common diseases.

Dr Jack Scannell said: "There is a nasty puzzle at the heart of modern biomedical research. On one hand, the technologies that people think are important have become hundreds, thousands, or even billions of times cheaper. On the other hand, it costs nearly 100 times more to bring a drug to market today than it did in 1950. New drugs can be very expensive, yet the industry is closing labs and firing scientists. Our work goes some way towards explaining the puzzle. Governments, companies, and charities should focus on identifying and funding predictive methods, even if they don't match current scientific fashion."

Scannell JW, Bosley J (2016) When Quality Beats Quantity: Decision Theory, Drug Discovery, and the Reproducibility Crisis. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0147215. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147215

Most Popular Now

FDA approves first biosimilar for the treatment of…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) as a biosimilar to Avastin (bevacizumab) for the treatment of multiple types of cancer. Mvas...

Merck set to join forces with Project Data Sphere …

Merck, a leading science and technology company has announced that it will enter into a strategic collaboration with Project Data Sphere LLC, an independent, not-for-prof...

FDA approval brings first gene therapy to the Unit…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a historic action today making the first gene therapy available in the United States, ushering in a new approach to the treat...

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. receive…

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CyltezoTM, a biosimilar to Humira®*, in a pre-filled sy...

Asthma medicine halves risk of Parkinson's

Parkinson's disease is a chronic disease with unknown causes. The disease destroys the brain cells that control body movements. Shivering, stiff arms and legs and poor co...

This is how belly fat could increase your cancer r…

It's been well established that obesity is a contributor to cancer risk, but how it actually causes cancer is still a question that hasn't been fully explained. A new Mic...

Sanofi and Regeneron announce that cemiplimab (REG…

Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Breakthrough Therapy designation status to cemipli...

Tezepelumab significantly reduced asthma exacerbat…

AstraZeneca and Amgen Inc. (Amgen) announce results from the PATHWAY Phase IIb trial of tezepelumab that showed a significant reduction in the annual asthma exacerbation ...

Boehringer Ingelheim initiates Phase IIa study of …

Boehringer Ingelheim and pharmaceutical company Pharmaxis (ASX: PXS) announce that Boehringer Ingelheim has initiated a European and North American Phase IIa trial in NAS...

'Exciting' discovery on path to develop new type o…

Scientists at the University of Southampton have made a significant discovery in efforts to develop a vaccine against Zika, dengue and Hepatitis C viruses that affect mil...

Victoza® reduces the risk of major cardiovascular …

A new analysis of the landmark LEADER trial shows that Victoza® (liraglutide) reduced the risk of major cardiovascular (CV) events in people with type 2 diabetes at high ...

Researchers discover new immunotherapy combination…

Immunotherapy is an emerging field in the global fight against cancer, even though scientists and clinicians have been working for decades to find ways to help the body's...

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]