Johnson & Johnson tops the list of drugmakers successfully commercialising their new molecules in a report from consultants at IDEA Pharma.

The latter has released its third annual Productive Innovation Index (PII), which claims to measure firms’ ability to deliver innovation to market by evaluating their performance using publicly-available data based on a five-year period (2007-2012). Last year Amgen took the top spot with J&J ranking second, but the companies have switched places in the latest list.

IDEA's chief executive Mike Rea said J&J's rise was due to the successful launch of the prostate cancer drug Zytiga (abiraterone) and its rise up the Access to Medicine Index, from ninth two years ago to second, "which is of increasing global importance". Roche is third on the list after Amgen, followed by Merck & Co (up three places), while Sanofi rose one place to fifth.

This was despite what Mr Rea referred to as "a massive climbdown" on the French drugmaker's new colorectal cancer drug Zaltrap (aflibercept) which launched in the USA "at a suicidally high price which it continued to defend against increasing criticism". The company then halved the price in November last year "but the damage had been done".

In sixth place is Eli Lilly, followed by Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol -Myers Squibb and Abbott Laboratories. Pfizer is only 11th in the index, while AstraZeneca is 15th.

The consultancy also described Takeda (in 12th) as “punching above its weight”, and says that when comparing Vertex’s commercial success in hepatitis C with Merck’s, it proved that innovation is a skill in decision making rather than a factor in size.

Mr Rea goes on to say that "innovation is not only about what you discover, it’s about what you put on the market, so a carefully-considered strategy is critical". He adds that some companies "are so eager to clear the regulatory hurdles that it creates a culture of panic leading to the wrong behaviour, and by ignoring the different requirements of today’s market, some companies are getting very good at failing".

Mr Rea concludes by saying that AstraZeneca is "the perfect example of a company which has shown all the signs of panic over the past five years." He argues that "the stress of an underwhelming pipeline has led it to make bad decisions on top of bad decisions".