Marketing applications for new molecular entities (NMEs) in the US rose by 33% from 21 to 28 between 2006 and 2007, suggesting that the biopharmaceutical industry may be recovering from its much-discussed productivity drought.

New data from contract research organisation (CRO) Parexel International show that only 16 NMES were actually approved during 2007, the lowest level for a number of years, while global launches of new active substances (NASs) fell by 19% to 25.

Nonetheless, Parexel sees the trend in NME submissions as encouraging. “NME and NAS approvals are key measures of new drug productivity in the biopharmaceutical industry, and these measures tend to improve based on the volume of new drug submissions,” commented Mark Mathieu, the CRO’s director of publications and editor of The US Drug Approval Trends and Yearbook 2008/2009.

NMEs are a closely watched category as they are drugs that have never before been approved for any use, he noted.

Parexel’s analysis also revealed that record percentages of drug marketing applications designated by the US Food and Drug Administration as priority submissions are going straight to approval in the initial review cycle.

Recently the CRO reported that the number of commercial Investigational New Drug (IND) applications to start industry-sponsored clinical trials in the US rose by 11.6% to a record high of 662 in 2007.