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Better Drugs through Greater Competition

The pharmaceutical industry may have arrived at its own version
of ‘publish or perish’: ‘Develop or disappear’. In 2008, as reported in Chemistry World, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) instituted a policy requiring its research teams to pitch and defend their research programs
to executives and outside analysts, a la
the U.S. television show Shark Tank. Three
years later, as reported on 21 August in The Sunday Times (and freely accessible on the Ottawa Citizenthose teams are up for a progress review — and not everyone will make the cut.

According to The Sundays Times, GSK’s research and development program is starkly different from the traditional model, which follows a more top-down approach with creativity arising from the top and responsibility for production filtering down the chain of command. The sagging economy has forced pharma companies like GSK to reduce their R&D investment, and combined with federal regulations requiring more and more stringent clinical trials, the traditional model just isn’t pushing out top-tier creative ideas right now, say industry watchers mentioned in the Times article.

According to the Times, the new policy puts more responsibility and creative control directly into the hands of the scientists themselves. They decide which diseases they want to target, come up with a research and production plan, and then try to sell their higher-ups on the idea.

GSK hopes that process will spur the pharma industry’s lately sluggish drug development. The pressure is on for pharma companies to create the next blockbuster drug, as patents for many of the big names such as Lipitor, Flomax, and Aricept expired last year, opening GSK and other drug companies up to competition from makers of cheaper generics.

You may read the full Sunday Times article here.