Fact of the Week: In 2017, FDA Approved 46 New Drugs and Over 1,000 Generic Drugs

September 4, 2018

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FDA approved 46 new drugs in 2017, the most in more than 20 years, and over 1,000 generic drugs, the most ever.

Sources: “Novel Drug Approvals for 2017,” FDA website, accessed February 2, 2018; Kathleen Uhl, “2017 Was Another Record-Setting Year for Generic Drugs,” FDA Voice, February 7, 2018.

Commentary: Debates over high-priced prescription drugs tend to focus on whether the government should attempt to constrict the pharmaceutical industry, whether by reducing patent protections or by mandating lower prices. What these conversations miss, though, is that drug prices could also fall through the expansion of the pharmaceutical industry, rather than its restriction.

While it is often acknowledged that having more drug companies doing more research and development makes it more likely they will generate treatments for diseases that are currently incurable, it is also true that creating new drugs that overlap with existing treatments causes competition, driving down drug prices. Last year’s approvals by the FDA give reason to be optimistic that this is happening. Not only were 46 novel drugs approved, a total not matched since 1997, but also a record 1,027 generic drugs were approved. The release of new drugs gives patients a greater choice of medications to suit their needs, while generic drugs help ensure that those choices are widely available lower costs, which we would not see if it wasn’t profitable to develop new drugs or enter the pharmaceutical industry.