Around and Around, On and On: The Endless Cycle of Innovation

Around and Around, On and On: The Endless Cycle of Innovation

11.30.11 | By Kate Connors

There's a phrase I often use - perhaps bordering on overuse. It's that innovation is both cumulative and cyclical. What does this mean?
First, cumulative: the R&D process is always ongoing. It does not stop after FDA approval of a new medicine. Companies continue researching their medicines and monitoring how they affect patients. At times, this can lead to new indications. Though cancer medicines are often held up as an example of this, sometimes new indications have nothing directly to do with the initial one. Imagine how many patients' lives are saved because companies kept on studying the drugs that eventually saved them.
It also means that companies can make the products that they bring to market even better. This may mean producing them as a combination drug for enhanced efficacy or improved dosage. At the end of the day, the additional resources that companies put into this development may improve health and adherence - and, not insignificantly, may improve quality of life.
But the other part of my saying? That innovation is cyclical? It's quite simply the business model of the biopharmaceutical research sector. Just as companies continue to study each new medicine approved for patient use, they also must continue to evaluate and develop other compounds because, eventually, today's novel new product will become tomorrow's generic.
It's a system that balances innovation with access. And patients benefit from both parts - innovation means brand medicines that perhaps represent an unmet medical need, or require patients to only take their medicine once a day, or alleviate side effects - and access means that when a generic is appropriate for patients, they have lower-priced options.
Check out this chart. It helps to demonstrate the lifecycle of a drug. But when you do, imagine it on a loop. Because the cycle never stops.

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