Marketed products with total annual sales of >US$1 billion, termed ‘blockbusters’, have historically provided the financial basis for most research-based pharmaceutical companies to sustain their innovation-driven research and development (R&D) models. Previous analyses indicated that pharmaceutical companies are increasingly struggling to deliver blockbusters, suggesting that the traditional blockbuster model might be broken. We evaluated the recent significance of blockbusters by analysing new drugs (new molecular entities or new biologics) developed by the 20 leading research-based pharmaceutical companies over the last decade (2011–2020) to assess whether the blockbuster model is still valid or indeed broken (see Supplementary information for details of the dataset and analysis).
A.S., N.B. and O.G. declare no competing interests. M.H. is an employee of Novartis and a former employee of Roche and Sanofi. D.H. is a former employee of Roche and Novartis. This study did not get any external funding and was undertaken independently.