Innogen  ·  Publications  ·  Working papers
The Benefits of Biopharmaceuticals

Arundel, A   Mintzes, B

January 2004

Innogen working paper no. 14

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The social benefits of biopharmaceuticals include both economic and health effects. Due to the poor correlation between drug sales and health outcomes, benefits are better assessed using non-economic indicators. We define biopharmaceuticals as large molecule drugs produced using rDNA technology and identify 59 biopharmaceuticals with market approval in the US or Europe by the end of June 2004. We then compare the therapeutic advance offered by biopharmaceuticals and small molecule drugs, using independent evaluations by Prescrire for 48 evaluated biopharmaceuticals with 85 indications and for 2,235 evaluated indications for other drugs. Biopharmaceuticals have a distinctive therapeutic advance, with 27.1% of biopharmaceuticals providing `some advance' or higher, compared to only 10.2% of all other drugs. However, the therapeutic edge of biopharmaceuticals is declining over time due to an increase in `me too' biopharmaceuticals. Over the short-term, the aggregate health benefits of biopharmaceuticals will be limited because the approved indications are mostly for rare diseases.