US pharmaceutical innovation in an international context

Am J Public Health. 2010 Jun;100(6):1075-80. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.178491. Epub 2010 Apr 19.


Objectives: We explored whether the United States, which does not regulate pharmaceutical prices, is responsible for the development of a disproportionate share of the new molecular entities (NMEs; a drug that does not contain an active moiety previously approved by the Food and Drug Administration) produced worldwide.

Methods: We collected data on NMEs approved between 1992 and 2004 and assigned each NME to an inventor country. We examined the relation between the proportion of total NMEs developed in each country and the proportion of total prescription drug spending and gross domestic product (GDP) of each country represented.

Results: The United States accounted for 42% of prescription drug spending and 40% of the total GDP among innovator countries and was responsible for the development of 43.7% of the NMEs. The United Kingdom, Switzerland, and a few other countries innovated proportionally more than their contribution to GDP or prescription drug spending, whereas Japan, South Korea, and a few other countries innovated less.

Conclusions: Higher prescription drug spending in the United States does not disproportionately privilege domestic innovation, and many countries with drug price regulation were significant contributors to pharmaceutical innovation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Denmark
  • Drug Costs
  • Drug Industry / economics
  • Drug Industry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drugs, Investigational* / economics
  • Economics / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Korea
  • Norway
  • Research Support as Topic / economics
  • Research Support as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Spain
  • United States


  • Drugs, Investigational