Public Release: 

What 2015 reveals about trends in the pharmaceutical industry

American Chemical Society

As the year comes to an end, a survey of the hottest pharma news stories from the past year illustrates industry trends from megadeals to drug approvals. A suite of stories in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, highlights the most significant patterns that emerged in 2015.

Overall, the year ends on a positive note for the pharma industry, according to the C&EN package. Drug sales grew about 5 percent to $958 billion, and the Food and Drug Administration had approved 40 novel therapeutics -- several of them for cancer treatments that harness the immune system -- by early December. That's just one short of last year's two-decade peak. Acquisitions by heavyweights such as Roche and Valeant Pharmaceuticals don't yet beat the deals of the preceding year, but a pending $160 billion purchase of an Irish specialty drug firm by Pfizer could change that. The new genome-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9 or simply CRISPR has spurred a boom in gene-therapy research.

While the industry has much to celebrate, not all news in 2015 was rosy. The market's appetite for biotech diminished this summer although established and nascent hubs are growing. And in one of the most controversial pharma-related acts of the year, Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the cost of a drug by 5,000 percent. The price hike quickly provoked the ire of Congress and the public. Although some experts view the decision as an outlier, patient advocates worry it's a sign of higher prices to come.

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