Jinfo BlogSelected Sources for Pharmaceuticals

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By Adrian Janes

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Abstract

DocuTicker editors contribute brief articles to FUMSI on conducting research with grey literature - reports from government agencies, think tanks, research institutes and public interest organisations.

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In my work as a contributing editor for DocuTicker, I research publicly available reports on a number of global topics. Here are some of my favourite resources for Pharmaceuticals:

The pharmaceutical industry is at once one of the most profitable and one of the most controversial in the world. Since its activities are so entwined with issues of human health, and basic assumptions as to how to preserve or restore it, this is not surprising. This article is chiefly concerned with information sources on the economic position and research work of pharmaceutical companies. But since both health scares and alleged wonder cures are a regular feature in the news, it should at least be noted that trying to determine reliable information sources is particularly fraught in this field because of the vested interests and high emotions involved.

A useful global picture is given by this report (PDF) from Lombard Street Research. One of the key issues highlighted is the number of expiring patents for well-known (and highly profitable) drugs - a schedule of some of the main ones due to run out by 2012 is given on page 6.

Also looking to the future, a series of reports from Price Waterhouse Coopers under the banner 'Pharma 2020' is freely summarised. The full reports are obtainable in exchange for (free) registration.

An impressive source on clinical trials throughout the world is the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA). Its portal provides immediate suggestions for refinements to a search as you go along, e.g a search for AIDS at once breaks down into trials for Antibodies, Antigens, Long-Term Survivors, etc. Befitting its international scope, alternative search terms are offered in a range of languages.

Furthermore, this site is a valuable resource for other major aspects of the pharmaceutical field, with categories of Ethical Promotion; Pandemic Influenza; Developing World; Counterfeit Medicines; Genetic Resources; and Biologicals & Vaccines. There are also directories of the Member Associations and Member Companies.

Pharmaceutical Technology, Biotechnology Industry Organisation and European Pharmaceutical Review are additional sources to help one keep up to date on Research and Development (R & D), although only the last-named appears to offer RSS and Twitter feeds. R & D is a long-term aspect of pharmaceuticals' activity, but there is a steady stream of news as studies take place, deals are struck and figures released. In addition to the sources noted, Bionity is also valuable. Its distinctive tabbed searching facility means that stories related to such headings as Research, Finances, Market, etc can be quickly displayed, though keyword and Advanced Searching are of course also available. (The archive under the latter heading purports to go back to January 1995.)

The American pharmaceutical industry is amongst the world's largest. As such, the March 2010 Industry Overview provided by the US Government's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a handy, and topical, introduction to the subject. Although the report does not make as much use of links as would be desirable, there is a concise list of some useful ones under Industry Resources.

Incidentally, the IRS provides a number of such overviews; relevant here is that on Biotechnology, which to an increasing degree is an industry sharing common ground with the pharmaceutical.

Also very significant, Europe's pharmaceutical industry is in part served in information terms by the Public Health area of the European Commission's website. As well as news, an especially valuable part of this is found under Reference Documents, notably Eudralex, the legislation covering human and animal medicines in the EU, and the Community Register of the same, which can be searched by brand name or active ingredient.

A specifically European directory of Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical firms is provided by Ezilon.

The world's emerging markets are also areas where disease is rife. Pharmaceutical companies therefore see them as an important area to expand into, as summarised in this 2009 conference presentation 'Fulfil growth potential of Emerging Markets' (PDF) by Abbas Hussain of GlaxoSmithKline. Despite the obvious slant towards his own company, there is much here that is generally applicable and easy to assimilate. A more detailed review of the same subject, 'Assessment of the Opportunities for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Emerging Markets' (PDF), comes from one of the professional associations in the field, the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.

But the costs of drugs and medicines in developing countries are still such that there is a tension between the needs of their populations and the interests of the established pharmaceutical firms. Thus another feature of the current period is the growth of indigenous pharmaceutical companies, as shown for example by Deutsche Bank's research on the Indian industry, and this summary of China's from Bioportfolio.

Piribo specialises in research on the BioPharma industry worldwide. Although its full reports are expensive, useful snapshots can be gleaned for free amongst its Top 50 Pharma category, with summaries and contents listings for reports. (NB The summaries subtitled 'Pipelines, Products, Performance, Potential' are the most detailed; those from PharmaVitae and IMS are too brief to be of much use).

As in other industries, mergers and takeovers are a fact of life for pharmaceuticals. This June 2008 factsheet (PDF), from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB), is a summary of such activity between 1958 and 2008. Since the RPSGB is obviously monitoring these events, the main site would be worth bookmarking as a source for those yet to come, a likely side-effect of the remedies being applied to the present global economic sickness.

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