How Many Pharmas Does It Take to Accelerate Drug Development?

Stop me if you've heard this one before: How many pharmas does it take to accelerate the development of drugs?

Ten!

Ha-ha! Get it? Ten.

As they say, the funniest jokes are the ones that are true. I kid you not, there really are 10 companies that think they can band together to speed things up.

Separated, the companies are inefficient at running clinical trials. But together, Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) , AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN  ) , Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY  ) , GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , Roche, and Sanofi think they can get things done.

I'll believe it when I see it.

The companies have formed a non-profit called TransCelerate BioPharma, which plans to tackle inefficiencies in the clinical trials as its first task. Right now, each company has to reinvent the wheel each time they run a trial. If everything was standardized, it would be a lot easier on clinical trial investigators, the doctors actually running the trials.

That certainly sounds like a good idea, but putting it into practice doesn't sound nearly as easy. Can 10 competitors really be expected to share resources to create a better system that will ultimately help those competitors?

As an example, one of the initiatives is to set up a system so companies can procure other company's drugs to use as comparators in clinical trials. That's great if you're on the receiving end, but not so much if it means helping a competitor get onto the market. Celgene (Nasdaq: CELG  ) reportedly refused to sell Dr. Reddy's Laboratories some of its cancer drug Revlimid that it needed to prove its copycat drug was equivalent.

Call me skeptical, but I have a feeling every company in the consortium is probably more interested in benefiting from the intuitive than they are in helping their fellow companies bring drugs to the market quicker.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Johnson & Johnson. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2013, at 2:46 PM, sthrngalnyla wrote:

    So, Motley Fool--I agreed with your initial assessment but as I've watched the progress of this organization, I now am of different opinion. After attending many conferences and listening to TCB's CEO Dalvir Gill proselytize how this could happen...then seeing subsequent Member Company personnel update at industry conferences, it seems to be true.

    But what should be of concern to these member companies is, IMHO, the following: Each company paid a one MILLION dollars to join and to have their personnel work on these initiatives. With that, TCB work is being run by Accenture who has 275K employees and reported 29B in net revenues last year.

    Gee, I wonder where all this good will comes from? I mean, if TCB is truly a consortium formed to develop standards for the greater good and collaboration between pharma and industry, why are key players like CROs not included? Why does it cost a million to benefit from their work? Why is their name Transcelerate Biopharma? Their mission to accelerate drug development--perhaps their own? Let's face it. Every initiative on their list centers around centralizing and collecting data on investigator site personnel, that BIG PHARMA has cultivated over the years. Additionally, it seeks to drive data through their PORTAL on standards for special populations, data collection, protocol development, etc. While their initiatives seem driven to improve QOL for investigative sites and Pharma, I see something different. It seems to be a sly and very well thought out way to gain access to the data and build additional data on thousands of researchers globally, protocols and other related processes that can be aggregated and evaluated in a pinch for their plans. The conspiracy theorist that lurks in the deeper recesses of my mind thinks that this is the perfect way for Accenture (and even Dalvir Gill) to reap the benefits of this information at the cost (literally) of big pharma to form their own mega pharma company. It's a lot easier to do that when the work has been done, the details and data that guide you to the right sites, the right protocol design, the right comparators to execute in a more streamlined fashion. I mean it takes about $1.5B currently to bring a drug to market due to the length of time involved in evaluating molecules and testing...what if a lot of that was done for you and handed over through a nice centralized portal of data collected from upwards of 17 pharma companies???

    Wonder how long it will take before these folks realize that they have been duped.

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