Pipeline Attrition: A Lead Sheet Perspective


If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate. — Thomas Watson, Jr.

In clinical trials, not all failures are equal. Late stage attrition is far more costly than drug candidate terminations occurring earlier in the development process. Among many other things, the PharmSource Lead Sheet provides coverage of products that have been terminated in Phase II & III. This enables clients to identify therapeutic categories that have been most at risk from attrition, providing insight into the development process and aiding in business development strategic planning.

Attrition of PII/PIII compounds 2012-2014 by Therapeutic Category


The graph above shows the number of Phase II/III products terminated as a percentage of the portfolio for the leading ten therapeutic categories across all companies during CY 2012-2014.

What is striking is the high failure rate among 3 categories: CNS, Cardiovascular and Musculoskeletal. Defining the molecular pathways underpinning Alzheimer’s disease remains elusive; there have been several high-profile failures. Likewise, Acute Coronary Syndrome is another area of unmet medical need, responsible for many terminations. This is in contrast to Oncology, where advances in understanding the underlying patho-physiology are paving the way for a spectrum of new treatments.

Although many CMO and CRO service providers are generally “therapeutically agnostic,” looking at the broader picture is likely to be time well spent. Having access to data invites the analysis of trends and can provide useful guidance and direction in helping choose the right clients.

Despite relatively high failure rates among certain therapeutic categories, clinical trials in these areas nevertheless provide important opportunities for early-phase clinically-oriented service providers. On the other hand, larger companies offering commercial capabilities may elect to go after early phase opportunities with a greater certainty of eventual commercial success.

Read more postings by Saul

Saul is PharmSource’s Director of Market Intelligence. He brings over 15 years of experience in market analysis, having worked in business intelligence roles at Evaluate Pharma, Cardinal Health (now Catalent) and Abbott Laboratories. Prior to that, he was a Post-doctoral fellow in Neuropharmacology at the Universities of Birmingham and Bristol.  Saul holds an MSc (Neuroscience) from the Institute of Psychiatry (King’s College London) and a D.Phil in Neuropharmacology from the University of Oxford.

More posts by Saul Richmond