A Look at Innovation Over the Last Decade

January 10, 2020 10:49 am

In addition to the new year stories about drug pricing, we noticed several looks back at innovation over the last year and since 2010. PCMag, Inc., and Wired all focused on tech, but, even before we rang in 2020, a few outlets were discussing the most impactful medical innovations of the last 10 years.


At CNBC, reporter Christina Farr asked biotech experts to weigh in on the biggest breakthroughs of the past decade. They identified treatments developed by AbbVie, Gilead, and Merck, that “can reverse [hepatitis C] in as little as eight weeks.” The disease affects up to 4 million Americans annually.


Dr. Max Essex, professor emeritus at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told National Public Radio, “If you ask me what’s the greatest development … in the last 10 years, it’s the drug dolutegravir,” which has been on the market in the United States since 2014. Dolutegravir reduces the amount of HIV in an individual’s blood to levels so low that the disease cannot be detected. NPR said the drug could put the “end of AIDS in view.” (This Fortune article explains Gilead’s Truvada could have a similar impact. Truvada offers between 90 percent and 99 percent effectiveness in preventing HIV transmission in at-risk patients.)


NPR also noted treatments developed over the last decade have “knock[ed] out” drug-resistant tuberculosis.


In 2019 alone, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 48 novel drugs, including seven in the last month of the year. (This list does not include vaccines, allergenic products, blood and blood products, plasma derivatives, cellular, and gene therapy products.) The drugs approved in December 2019 included treatments for insomnia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, schizophrenia, and metastatic breast cancer.


Back in August, Motley Fool outlined the five biggest new pharmaceutical breakthroughs approved by that point in 2019. This list included Novartis’ Zolgensma, which we discussed in this blog post, Johnson & Johnson’s Balversa, which treats advanced or metastatic bladder cancer, and Pfizer’s Vyndaqel, which treats heart disease caused by TTR amyloidosis.


In April, The New York Times wrote about Amgen’s romosozumab, which it said “represent[ed] the first new treatment approach” for osteoporosis “in nearly two decades.” Dr. Richard Bockman, chief of endocrine service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, told The Times, “This is an extraordinarily important drug” because “it’s a true bone-building drug that takes advantage of the underlying biology of bone.”


There is more to come in the new year, of course. Using information from the Cleveland Clinic, the South Florida Reporter reviewed the top medical innovations that are expected to hit the market in 2020. The Reporter noted SGLT2 inhibitors, which now are used to treat type 2 diabetes, are “being explored” as a way to stop the progression of cardiac amyloidosis, a rare form of heart failure. Time recently featured Semma Therapeutics, which is looking for a cure for type 1 diabetes.


As PhRMA has explained, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved more than 500 new medicines since 2000. (Readers can take a more comprehensive look at what is in the pipeline here.) With U.S. pharmaceutical companies investing nearly $100 billion annually in research and development, our hope for the new year is that Washington policymakers don’t do anything that could disrupt this outstanding record of innovation.