More than half of senior executives in the pharmaceutical industry are more confident about their prospects now than at the beginning of the year, according to an international study on economic recovery.

The research, conducted by law firm Eversheds, shows that the drugs sector is "one of most optimistic areas of the global economy and has taken a proactive approach to combating the economic climate". It reveals that businesses in the sector "have been most focused on increased customer relationship management (CRM) activity to aid recovery over the last 18 months".

Eversheds’ Tools for Recovery report, which polled more than 1,000 senior business figures across China, the USA, Europe and the United Arab Emirates, also found that pharmaceutical companies are planning to invest in three key areas over the next 12 months – changing products and services (48%), CRM activity (45%) and increasing staff reorganisations (45%).

This follows some tough decisions during the last 18 months, the report says, "with 55% of pharmaceutical businesses cutting discretionary spending, while 39% had to make redundancies".

Janet Knowles, head of the life sciences team at Eversheds, said that "while economists have signalled the official ending of the recession, there is little doubt that challenging economic conditions persist". Despite this backdrop, "most pharmaceutical companies have survived and even thrived".

She went on to say "there are encouraging signs of a general trend towards reducing cost-cutting measures in the year ahead and a greater desire to invest and focus on growth.”

Across all sectors, the report found that one in four senior executives is less confident now than at the beginning of the year, though "the mood varies greatly from country to country". Pessimism is most pronounced in the USA, "while optimism in the East continues to soar".

The study argues that businesses in China and Russia "have led the charge in trying to drive demand, by searching for new market opportunities". China is also leading the way in international expansion, with almost three quarters of those surveyed looking to expand into an average of more than two foreign markets in the next 12 months. Just 18% of companies in the USA are seeking out international opportunities.