Physicochemical properties such as lipophilicity and molecular mass are known to have an important influence on the absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and toxicity (ADMET) profile of small-molecule drug candidates. To assess the use of this knowledge in reducing the likelihood of compound-related attrition, the molecular properties of compounds acting at specific drug targets described in patents from leading pharmaceutical companies during the 2000-2010 period were analysed. Over the past decade, there has been little overall change in properties that influence ADMET outcomes, but there are marked differences in molecular properties between organizations, which are maintained when the targets pursued are taken into account. The target-unbiased molecular property differences, which are attributable to divergent corporate drug design strategies, are comparable to the differences between the major drug target classes. On the basis of our analysis, we conclude that a substantial sector of the pharmaceutical industry has not modified its drug design practices and is still producing compounds with suboptimal physicochemical profiles.