Competitiveness in Follow-On R&D: Race or Imitation?

27 November 2012

The development of 'follow-on' or 'me-too' drugs — generally defined as a drug with a similar chemical structure or the same mechanism of action as a drug already marketed — has attracted contrasting views. Some have argued that follow-on drugs often provide useful options for particular patients and encourage price competition. Others view the development of such drugs as duplicative.

Implicit in some criticism is the notion that the development of follow-on drugs begins after a first-in-class drug has proved commercially successful. To explore this assumption, Dr DiMasi discusses a new analysis based on the development and patent-filing histories of entrants to new drug classes in the past five decades. The study provides new evidence that the development of multiple new drugs in a given class is better characterized as a race than as the imitation of successful products.

Dr DiMasi is Director of Economic Analysis at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, an independent, non-profit, multidisciplinary research organization affiliated with Tufts University. He has served on the editorial boards of the Drug Information Journal, the Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Economics, and the Journal of Pharmaceutical Finance, Economics & Policy. He has published in a wide variety of economic, medical, and scientific journals, and has presented his research at numerous conferences.