The pharmaceutical industry is leaning heavily on an ageing portfolio of drugs, according to new data released in the 2010 Pharmaceutical R&D Factbook.

The figures, complied by CMR International, indicate that drug companies reap 44% of their profits from their three top sellers.

Sales of drugs launched within the past five years, on the other hand, only account for 7% of their profits, down from 8% in 2008.

R&D expenditure fell 0.3% in 2009, down from 6.6% in 2008. Only 26 new molecular entities were launched onto the global market in 2009, a minor increase from 2008’s 20-year low of 21.

Hans Poulsen, CMR International’s head of consulting, said the low success rate for drugs in late-stage development and a decline in sales from new drugs launched in the past five years has compunded the poor productivity of 2009.

“With data indicating a continued drop in overall success rates, it remains to be seen if the industry can reverse a ten-year trend in declining R&D output,” he said.

The report also showed competition from the generics sector is increasing, in particular due contributions from companies based in India and China.