New drug approvals in 1985 and 1986 were analyzed to determine whether any new trends have emerged in the US drug development process. Fifty-three new drugs (including three biologic products) were approved during this period; 46 met the Center for the Study of Drug Development's definition of a new chemical entity (NCE). More than 70% of the 46 approvals were granted in the fourth quarter, 50% in December alone. Four were FDA classified as 1A (important therapeutic gain), 24 as 1B (modest gain), and 16 as 1C (little or no gain); two biologics were not classified. Nine drugs were given orphan status. For the 37 non-orphan drugs, the duration of the "development phase" (IND filing to NDA submission) was 5.6 years; the "review phase" (NDA submission to approval) was 2.6 years; and the "total time" (IND filing to NDA approval) was 8.2 years. Review phase for the four 1A drugs was 2.4 years; for the 24 1B drugs, 2.6 years; for the 16 1C drugs, 2.8 years; and for the nine orphan drugs, 2.7 years. Of the 46 drugs, 33 (71.7%) were available in foreign markets prior to US approval with a mean of 5.5 years of prior marketing. Although the total of 46 NCE approvals in 1985 and 1986 represents a two-year high, there has been a dramatic shift towards fourth quarter approvals. Lengths of the development and FDA review phases are in keeping with those values for previous years.