Pharma CEOs talk tough about unproductive R&D spending

A number of the CEOs gathering together for this year's annual Reuters Health Summit arrived eager to talk tough about the R&D side of the business. After years of seeing only meager production from multibillion-dollar research budgets, some say that industry-wide developers are now cutting back. And with giants like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline already well into plans to scale down their R&D spending, some say that the slowdown has already begun.

"When we get the final numbers for 2010 over 2009 globally, I think we are going to see it is in decline," AZ CEO David Brennan told the Reuters crowd. For the top 10 pharma companies, though, that hasn't be the case. As FierceBiotech reported earlier this year, a number of Big Pharma companies have vowed to stick by their budgets, even if it squeezes their margins. Still, you can hear the frustration being voiced in the executive suite.

"Five years ago people would say 'the more I spend on R&D, the more shots in goal I will have, the more successful I will be,'" Viehbacher said. "Now you have got some investors out there who believe that what we do in R&D is actually value destroying."

The FDA's Janet Woodcock, though, says that smaller biotech companies are pushing a jump in approvals this year, with 12 new drugs OK'd already so far this year. "The nadir has been reached and we're coming up the other side."  

- here's the article from Reuters' Ben Hirschler

Special Report: The world's biggest R&D spenders