tabletsAround 90% of potential drugs entering the pipeline of clinical trials are expected to never make it out the other side. However, a new study suggests that this downward trend is beginning to reverse itself. Between 2012 and 2014 more than 11 percent of clinical trials succeeded, reversing a downward trend observed over the last 20 years. 

During the late 1990s the cumulative success rate of clinical trials was 16.4 percent, decreasing to 10% between 2004 and 2007 before reaching an all-time low at 7.5 percent between 2008 and 2011.

According to the study authors, a team from consulting firm McKinsey & Co, cutbacks within the pharmaceutical industry are reflected in the declining success rates. 2007 through 2010 saw many pharma companies cutting back on R&D, taking part in large mergers, and generally “pruning” their pipelines.

However, this period of industry contraction may have been the trigger for the upswing. The team from McKinsey suggested savvy use of resources had lead to quality product pipelines. 

“Basically, the industry is learning how to fail earlier,” said Martin Moller, one of the coauthors, who heads McKinsey pharma R&D consulting in Europe, the Mideast, and Asia. “We’ve been used to seeing a decline. This is a turning of the trend. Whether that is sustainable is an open question.”