Oncology treatments dominate the drug development pipeline

News release

April 21, 2020

Ottawa, ON — Patented Medicine Prices Review Board

The latest edition of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) Meds Pipeline Monitor reports that oncology treatments made up over a third of the more than 5,500 new drugs in all phases of clinical trials in 2019. Therapies for central nervous system diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression represented the second largest therapeutic area across the pipeline, outnumbering new treatments for infectious disease.

Meds Pipeline Monitor 2019 reviewed the 697 new medicines in late stages of clinical evaluation to highlight drugs that could potentially impact the Canadian health care system. Among these, the PMPRB identified 8 new late-stage medicines, including two gene therapies, that may offer breakthroughs in treating previously unmet needs or have the potential to treat large patient populations.

The Meds Pipeline Monitor series, which is published through the National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System (NPDUIS) research initiative, provides a snapshot of the new drug landscape, highlighting medicines currently in clinical trials that may significantly impact future clinical practice and/or drug spending in Canada if and when they are approved for sale.

This annual horizon-scanning report is part of a suite of PMPRB publications that examine key segments of the pharmaceutical market. Together with its companion publication, Meds Entry Watch, it encompasses the continuum of new and emerging medicines in Canada and internationally.

Quick facts

  • In 2019, over 5,500 new medicines were undergoing clinical trials. Of this total, over one third were treatments for cancer. Other important emerging drugs included medicines for nervous system diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression, which accounted for 14% of medicines in clinical trials.

  • Of the 5,584 new pipeline medicines, 697 (12%) were in late stage trials or evaluation. One third of these were identified as treatments for rare diseases.

  • This report features 24 of the 697 late-stage medicines, including 6 gene therapies, 15 orphan-designated drugs (5 of which are gene therapies), 7 oncology medicines, and 6 biologics.

  • 9 new medicines currently under review by Health Canada are featured based on their potential to significantly impact healthcare spending and clinical practice in Canada. More than half of these medicines are expected to have global revenues nearing or exceeding $1 billion by 2025.

Associated links


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