Are we living in the end of the blockbuster drug era?

Drug News Perspect. 2010 Dec;23(10):670-84. doi: 10.1358/dnp.2010.23.10.1506088.


For the last two decades, we have seen remarkable growth in the pharmaceutical industry. This growth has mainly been due to the approximately 100 new blockbuster drugs, such as Lipitor® (atorvastatin) and Plavix® (clopidogrel). More than half of the revenue of major pharmaceutical companies and above one-third of the total pharmaceutical revenues came from the sales of these blockbuster drugs. Questions concerning the fate of these blockbuster drugs are beginning to surface as they are approaching their patent expiration dates, and as they are expected to face significant competition from generic versions. Branded drugs with more than USD 120 billion in sales (as of 2008) are expected to lose their patent protection in the next 3 to 4 years, while the less expensive generic versions are ready to enter the market. It is plausible that a major paradigm shift in our thinking is needed to stay innovative, competitive and economically feasible in this new era of drug development. A new wave of innovations is expected to boost the blockbuster regime. Herein, we discuss the different threats facing the branded monopoly, as well as some of the hopeful expectations for the blockbuster drug.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / trends
  • Drug Costs
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Industry / economics
  • Drug Industry / trends*
  • Drugs, Generic / economics*
  • Economic Competition / trends
  • Humans
  • Patents as Topic
  • United States


  • Drugs, Generic