According to a recent article in Chemical & Engineering News written by Lisa Jarvis, 2012 was a bountiful year for the pharmaceutical industry, with 39 new products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These include new drug therapies for drug resistant tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis and various forms of cancer. Apart from the benefits to patients that these drugs will provide, one of the most exciting things about these new drugs is that 18 of them work using new mechanisms of action. This may mean that for each new mechanism of action, other drugs may also may be developed. New mechanisms also contribute to a better understanding of the whole field of pharmaceutical science.

The majority of these new drugs are small molecule drugs, as opposed to larger protein/antibody based drugs. And at least 8 of these new drugs are for the treatment of so called orphan diseases (rare diseases that only occur in a small proportion of the population and which historically have been ignored by many pharmaceutical companies as uneconomical).

Some of the new drugs are as follows:

Drug  (company) For Treatment of:
Picato (Leo Pharma) (premaligant) Actinic keratosis
Sirturo (Johnson & Johnson) Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis
Zioptan (Merck & Co) Open-angle glaucoma/ocular hypertension
Stribild (Gilead Sciences) HIV  (a HAART drug combination)
Aubagio (Santofi) Multiple sclerosis
Xeljanz (Pfizer) Rheumatoid arthritis
Signifor (Novartis) Cushing’s disease
Gattex (NPS Pharmaceuticals) Short bowel syndrome
Perjeta (Genentech) HER-2 positive breast cancer
Stivaga (Bayer) Colorectal cancer
Iclusig (Ariad Pharmaceuticals) Chronic myeloid leukemia
Bosulif (Pfizer) Chronic myelogenous leukemia
Cometriq (Exelixis) Medullary thyroid cancer
Inlyta (Pfizer) Advanced kidney cancer


Also included amongst these new drugs are several new drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, one to assist with obesity and one for the treatment of anthrax.

Of course one of the challenges with new drugs is the cost. At the high end of the scale drugs like Gattex are costed at $295,000 (US) per year. Such drugs will no doubt prove a challenge for funding agencies such as New Zealand’s own Pharmac. This is the unfortunate result of the billions of dollars which it costs to discover, develop and manufacture drugs (although many observers argue that this cost would come down if drug companies spent more on research and less on marketing).