Pharmaceuticals: biopharma medicines in development in 2019, by category

Approximately 4,500 medicines were in the preclinical development phase of the drug pipeline in the United States, as of April 2019. Around 1,120 were being developed to treat the many types of cancer.

What is the preclinical phase of drug development?

Once a promising compound has been discovered, further experiments must take place to test all of its potential benefits and side effects. The preclinical stage sees further testing of the compound in laboratories to discover how the drug works and whether it is likely to be safe in humans. Globally, there were more than 8,500 medicines in the preclinical development stage in 2019. Researchers use preclinical testing to decide whether the drug should continue to clinical trials, where it will be tested in humans.

The journey of a drug from laboratory to pharmacy

The number of drugs in the overall research and development pipeline exceeded 16,000 in 2019. The process starts with basic research and ends with final approval and monitoring from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – for cancer drugs, it can take up to 15 years to complete this journey. In 2018, member companies of the trade group PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) invested close to 80 billion U.S. dollars worldwide in research and development.

Number of biopharma medicines in development in the U.S. as of April 2019, by therapeutic category*

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Release date

July 2019


United States

Survey time period

as of April 2019

Supplementary notes

* Medicines are defined as single products that are counted exactly once regardless of the number of indications pursued.

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