The pharmaceutical industry has won marketing approval so far this year for 20 innovative medicines, the U.S. drug watchdog said.
The Food and Drug Administration said the 20 approvals is just one shy of such approval for all of 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
After years of research misses, recently approved innovations include the first therapy shown to extend life for people with advanced melanoma, the first new treatment for lupus in more 50 years and two more effective drugs for hepatitis C, FDA officials said.
"We're seeing a lot of innovation, much more than in recent memory," said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's drug division.
Patents with terrible diseases or serious cancers should "take heart from what we are seeing," Woodcock said, calling the lab output now a "turning point" in drug development.
Drug companies are losing patents on a numbers of big sellers, including Pfizer Inc.'s cholesterol drug Lipitor, which goes off-patent in November, the Journal reported. Some estimates say companies could suffer a cumulative loss of more than $100 billion in revenue through 2015 as drugs face competition from low-priced generics.
While the new medicines won't reverse the trend, they should cushion the blow, analysts told the newspaper. At least 20 innovative drugs with the potential for annual sales of at least $1 billion could earn FDA approval during the next three years, Credit Suisse analyst Catherine Arnold said.