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For years, companies have been rewarded with exclusive incentives for developing complex biologic drugs, but a new analysis finds the median development times between these medicines and simpler-to-build small-molecule drugs were no different. And the researchers suggested the rewards given to biologic makers may be misplaced.

Using what they called a novel approach to analyzing patent databases, the researchers looked at 275 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration between 2007 and 2016. Of those, 77% were small-molecule drugs and 23% were biologics, but the median total development times — from the first patent filing to FDA approval — was 12.4 years both types of medicines.

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