Matthew Herper, Forbes

Last summer, after writing a profile of Bernard Munos, who has made it his calling to understand what goes into pharmaceutical innovation, I posted two very simple tables based on Munos’ data: of the drug companies that had approved the most drugs over the past decade, and over the past sixty years. I argued at the time (and still feel) that this is a pretty good surrogate for how good these companies were at being pharmaceutical firms — because a drug company’s main job is to invent new medicines and get them to patients.

Anyway, when I contacted Munos about a profile I was writing of the company that topped the ten-year list (that’s Novartis, and you can read the story in the current issue of Forbes) he wrote back with measures over a different time frame — 15 years. Novartis also winds up being tops in that window, too, with 21 new drugs (or new molecular entities, in pharma jargon) compared to 16 for Merck. I thought it was worth laying out those numbers too. What’s interesting is that the analysis bridges that long-term time period and the past decade, when much of the drug business has been in an innovation drought. And however you do it, the same names end up near the top: not only Novartis but also J&J and Merck. I’ll have more on this data soon — including how much companies are spending per drug. For now I just want to thank Munos and his InnoThink Center for Research in Biomedical Innovation for providing this data.

Company Number of Drugs
Novartis     21
Merck&Co     16
J&J     15
Pfizer     14
Wyeth     13
Bristol-Myers Squibb     11
Hoffmann-La Roche     11
Lilly     11
GlaxoSmithKline     10
Abbott (1)     9
Amgen     9
Pharmacia & Upjohn     9

Source: Bernard Munos, InnoThink Center for Research in Biomedical Innovation