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Research Article

Study of United Kingdom product licence applications containing new active substances, 1987-9.

BMJ 1991; 302 doi: (Published 26 January 1991) Cite this as: BMJ 1991;302:223
  1. M D Rawlins,
  2. D B Jefferys
  1. Department of Pharmacological Sciences, Wolfson Unit of Clinical Pharmacology, The University, Newcastle, upon Tyne.


    OBJECTIVES--To investigate the fate of product licence applications containing new active substances in relation to their degree of innovation and therapeutic category. To assess the numbers of volunteers and patients exposed to a new active substance when marketing autorisation is first sought. DESIGN AND SETTING--Observational study of records for each licence application submitted to the United Kingdom licensing authority for marketing authorisation from 1987 to 1989. SUBJECTS--118 product licence applications containing one or more new active substances. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Success of application for product licence as assessed by the decision of the Committee on Safety of Medicines to advise the granting of a licence (with or without conditions) or provisionally advise its refusal on the grounds of quality, safety, or efficacy. Assessment of numbers of volunteers and patients exposed to each substance during premarketing studies and clinical trials, and the numbers of treated patients available for an assessment of safety. RESULTS--118 relevant product licence applications were submitted during the review. Although 60% (52/86) of semi-innovative products fell into one of three therapeutic categories (cardiovascular, central nervous system, or anti-infective agents), only 41% (13/32) of fully innovative products fell into these categories. 47 applications were granted (conditionally or unconditionally) but the success rate for fully innovative products (56%, 18/32) was greater than that for semi-innovative products (34%, 29/86). The number of volunteers and patients exposed to a new product at submission varied widely and tended to be greater for successful applications. CONCLUSION--The results suggest a broadening of the pharmaceutical industry's research and development programmes and that a more liberal licensing policy exists for fully innovative products than for semi-innovative products. The relatively limited exposure of patients to new active substances at licensing underlines the importance of rigorous postmarketing surveillance.