Trends in clinical development timeframes for antiviral drugs launched in the UK, 1981–2014: a retrospective observational study
Objectives Recent decades have witnessed the development of highly innovative new antiviral drug therapies. However, there are concerns that rising costs and lengthening development times could have implications for future patient access to innovative new drugs. We sought to establish whether the time taken for the clinical development of new antiviral drugs launched in the UK had increased since the 1980s. Design and setting Retrospective observational study of all new antiviral drugs licensed for use in the UK. Primary and secondary outcome measures Duration of clinical development (from initiation of studies in humans to receipt of Marketing Authorisation), subdivided into clinical trial and regulatory approval periods by the date of Marketing Authorisation Application. Results 48 new antiviral drugs were licensed for use in the UK between 1981 and 2014 (inclusive), over half (54%) initially for HIV infection. The overall mean duration of clinical development was 77.2 months, of which 64.6 months was spent in clinical trials before regulatory submission. The total time in clinical development increased from 41.7 months for drugs licensed 1981–1992 to 91.7 months for drugs licensed 2004–2014. This increase was accounted for by an increase in the clinical trials period and not the regulatory approval period, for which there was no observable trend. Drugs initially licensed to treat hepatitis C had a longer duration of clinical development than those indicated for other viral infections. However, the, initially shorter clinical development durations of drugs indicated for HIV infection increased more rapidly across the study period than those indicated for other viral infections. Conclusions The time spent by antiviral drugs in clinical development has increased markedly in recent decades despite many initiatives to speed access to innovative new drugs. However, this represents only one part of the translational research pathway, and a complete picture of development timeframes is lacking.