Skip to Main Content

It’s one of the most talked about issues in healthcare: the future of drug development.

Signs that the old way of doing things is no longer working are everywhere; drug failure rates as high as 90 percent, an average time-to-market of 12 years, and R&D costs that have nearly doubled between 2003 and 2016.1 With productivity continuing to stagnate, and pressure mounting on companies to bring more affordable drugs to market faster than ever before, the entire pharmaceutical industry is facing hard truths about its deeply entrenched R&D processes.

A new data-driven study, The Innovation Imperative – The Future of Drug Development discusses a series of novel innovations that have the potential to dramatically improve drug development. Commissioned by PAREXEL — the world’s leading innovator of biopharmaceutical services — and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the study shows that while no single innovation will solve the industry’s challenges, a combination of advanced data analytics, direct patient and payer involvement, precision medicine, and innovative drug trial designs may unlock the efficiency and productivity that the industry so desperately needs.

Working with notable experts across the drug development landscape, the EIU identified four key innovations that show promise for empowering the industry:

  • Adaptive trial designs
  • Patient-centric trials
  • Precision medicine trials, and
  • Real-world data trials.

The team analyzed the impacts of these innovations on drug trials, trial recruitment, likelihood of a drug being launched, and patient access in order to better understand the role they play in improving drug development and, ultimately, patient benefit.

The study’s results paint a promising picture: drugs developed using the selected innovations had a 10-to-21 percent higher Phase II and III likelihood of launch than drugs developed using current practices. Sy Pretorius, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at PAREXEL, says these data should serve as a rallying cry for the industry to fully embrace the urgent need for innovation in drug development. “This one finding suggests that these methods should be deployed as standard best practice,” he says. “And yet, the data also uncover a striking dichotomy: despite their demonstrated impact, adoption rates of these innovations remain low. As an industry, we must look much more seriously at integrating these innovations throughout our processes.”

A contributor to the adoption gap may lie in the systemic lack of collaboration in an ecosystem long known for its multitude of silos. These silos create barriers between people and data, ultimately undermining the promise of innovations like those outlined in the EIU report.

The study also identified four critical enabling factors with the potential to break down these entrenched barriers: advanced data and analytics; workforce readiness; collaborative partnerships; and early regulator, payer, and patient involvement. While each of these enabling factors serves an important role in furthering innovation, they are most effective in combination, which makes a powerful case for more shared learning across organizations. “We hope that [the] research incites an educated dialogue between stakeholder groups as well as a collective action with a common purpose,” says Pretorius. “It’s important that we come together to look at ways we can adapt our organizations, behaviors and systems to create a more fertile space for innovation — for the sustainability of our industry, and for the benefit of patients in need of new treatment options.”

The study’s most promising finding is perhaps one of the simplest: the drug development ecosystem understands that major changes are required. “We are hopeful that this report will help drive forward the embrace of innovation in drug development, compelling all stakeholders in drug development to lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future,” said Alberto Grignolo, Corporate Vice President at PAREXEL. “We must continue to strengthen collaboration across sectors and in public-private partnerships as we keep our eye on the patient, who must always remain at the center of our efforts.”

Watch the exclusive interview with Alberto Grignolo for more insights about The PAREXEL/EIU Innovation Imperative study, or read the full study here.

1The Economist Intelligence Unit. The Innovation Imperative: The Future of Drug Development Part II: Barriers, Enablers and Calls to Action: 3.