GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Europe’s largest drug maker, managed to turn its fortunes around this year. It reported profits up 17 per cent in 2005, following a nine per cent fall the previous year. Pre-tax profit increased to £6.7 billion from £5.8bn in 2004. Last year it blamed cheap copies of its drugs and a weak dollar for poor performance, but said it believed its programme of rationalisation and standardisation, together with its new drug pipeline, would do the trick and pull it back into profits. It obviously worked. Jean-Pierre Garnier, chief executive officer says: “Not only was it our best year ever from a financial standpoint, we also made substantial progress with our pipeline of innovative new medicines and vaccines.”

GSK has invested in increasing its R&D productivity to discover new medicines faster and more economically. The company’s pipeline is one of the largest in the industry, with nearly 150 projects in clinical development, including 95 new chemical entities, 29 product line extensions and 25 vaccines. “In 2006 we anticipate further good news on GSK’s late-stage pipeline, which is developing at a fast pace. Eight major new assets are scheduled to enter phase III in 2006, doubling our late-stage pipeline,” says Garnier. All pharmaceutical companies are concentrating on speeding up development and approval cycles of new drugs, and GSK recently invested in an information management system that will speed up that process in Europe. The implementation of the system will allow GSK to carry out simultaneous product submissions for review in 20 different European languages to the European Medicines Agency (EMEA). GSK expects the system implementation to lead to significant business advantages by reducing the time necessary to pass the EMEA regulatory process. EMEA uses the XML-based product information (PIM) standard, so content has to be compliant before submission.

"“Not only was it our best year ever from a financial standpoint, we also made substantial progress with our pipeline of innovative new medicines and vaccines”"

Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO, GSK

The company has also begun to use RFID technology to tag medicines as part of a pilot project in the US to help protect patient safety. The drug being piloted is Trizivir, which is on the US’ list of most counterfeited drugs. The Food and Drug Administration is using RFID to discourage counterfeit medicines and protect patients.