Amgen looks set to be the only top-20 pharmaceutical/biotechnology company on track for double-digit success over the next six years, according to new research from market analyst Datamonitor.

With poor growth outlooks, caused in part by low R&D productivity, as well as an impending wave of patent expiries, tightening drug prices, and increasing regulatory pressures, licensing could be the pharmaceutical industry’s saving grace. However, says Datamonitor, “companies need to leverage their assets and offer creative deals to successfully win them from their competitors.”

The number of licensing deals signed by the top-20 pharmaceutical companies over the last five years has jumped 16%, and they have become extremely dependent on such agreements to generate sales. An average 19.5% of the top-20 pharmaceutical company’s ethical sales derived from licensed products in 2004, compared with 17.5% in 2002, a difference of $63 billion versus $48 billion.

The most active dealmakers during 2000 and 2004 were GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co, although the US giant took pole position in 2003 and 2004. However, in the wake of the Vioxx withdrawal, this situation saw a dramatic decline, with just six deals signed during the first nine months of this year compared to 30 in 2004.

Datamonitor believes dependence on licensing will increase over the next five years, with a forecast 26.1% of the top-20 companies’ revenues deriving from such products by 2010, equating to more than $100 billion – or double the figure in 2002. And Roche is expected to witness the greatest jump in its licensed products as a result of its tie-up with US biotechnology company Genentech.