TABLE 3.1 New Drug Products Achieving $100 Million Sales in the U.S. Market Within the First 6 Years of Market Life


Number Discovered



Outside United States













Note: Before performing this analysis, sales were transformed into constant (1986) dollars using the GNP price deflator.

Source: Compiled from sales audit data from IMS America Inc. (U.S.Drug Store and Hospital Sales, various issues).

The combined research efforts of academia, government, and industry have produced major advances in biomedical science, many of which offer promising clinical applications. Increased knowledge of physiological processes at the molecular level enable researchers to develop more selective and potent pharmaceutical targets. New research tools, such as electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography, and new research techniques associated with biotechnology have helped enhance the search for significant new compounds. Because of these advancements, pharmaceutical industry R&D now can be categorized more as a “discovery by design” approach, as opposed to the random screening of compounds that was once prevalent.

We have seen many more economically and therapeutically important drugs emerge from the R&D pipeline over the past decade.Table 3.1 provides an analysis of the number of drugs introduced between 1970 and 1984 that achieved 100 million dollars in annual sales in the first 6 years of market life. Using this definition of commercially important drugs, Table 3.1 shows that there were 22 such compounds over this period. The time trend shown is especially striking. There were only 2 such products in the 1970-1974 period, 8 in 1975-1979, and 12 for 1980-1984.1

This table also shows that foreign discoveries account for 10 of the 22 commercially important drugs in the United States during this period. This reflects the multinational character of the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceuticals discovered abroad have been a prominent source of U.S. market introductions over the past two decades. Conversely, sales of U.S.-discovered products in foreign countries have been important to earning satisfactory returns on R&D by U.S. firms.

It is also worth noting that while the relevant 6-year period for evaluating the sales of 1985-1989 introductions is still less than half completed, there already are eight compounds achieving $100 million in annual sales

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