Big Pharma, little science? A bibliometric perspective on Big Pharma's R&D decline Articles uri icon

publication date

  • January 2014

start page

  • 22

end page

  • 38


  • 81

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0040-1625

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-5509


  • There is a widespread perception that pharmaceutical R&D is facing a productivity crisis characterised by stagnation in the numbers of new drug approvals in the face of increasing R&D costs. This study explores pharmaceutical R&D dynamics by examining the publication activities of all R&D laboratories of the major European and US pharmaceutical firms (Big Pharma) during the period 1995-2009. The empirical findings present an industry in transformation. In the first place, we observe a decline of the total number of publications by large firms. Second, we show a relative increase of their external collaborations suggesting a tendency to outsource, and a diversification of the disciplinary base, in particular towards computation, health services and more clinical approaches. Also evident is a more pronounced decline in publications by both R&D laboratories located in Europe and by firms with European headquarters. Finally, while publications by Big Pharma in emerging economies sharply increase, they remain extremely low compared with those in developed countries. In summary, the trend in this transformation is one of a gradual decrease in internal research efforts and increasing reliance on external research. These empirical insights support the view that Big Pharma are increasingly becoming 'network integrators' rather than the prime locus of drug discovery. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.