Scientometrics of drug discovery efforts: pain-related molecular targets
Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
Abstract: The aim of this study was to make a scientometric assessment of drug discovery efforts centered on pain-related molecular targets. The following scientometric indices were used: the popularity index, representing the share of articles (or patents) on a specific topic among all articles (or patents) on pain over the same 5-year period; the index of change, representing the change in the number of articles (or patents) on a topic from one 5-year period to the next; the index of expectations, representing the ratio of the number of all types of articles on a topic in the top 20 journals relative to the number of articles in all (>5,000) biomedical journals covered by PubMed over a 5-year period; the total number of articles representing Phase I–III trials of investigational drugs over a 5-year period; and the trial balance index, a ratio of Phase I–II publications to Phase III publications. Articles (PubMed database) and patents (US Patent and Trademark Office database) on 17 topics related to pain mechanisms were assessed during six 5-year periods from 1984 to 2013. During the most recent 5-year period (2009–2013), seven of 17 topics have demonstrated high research activity (purinergic receptors, serotonin, transient receptor potential channels, cytokines, gamma aminobutyric acid, glutamate, and protein kinases). However, even with these seven topics, the index of expectations decreased or did not change compared with the 2004–2008 period. In addition, publications representing Phase I–III trials of investigational drugs (2009–2013) did not indicate great enthusiasm on the part of the pharmaceutical industry regarding drugs specifically designed for treatment of pain. A promising development related to the new tool of molecular targeting, ie, monoclonal antibodies, for pain treatment has not yet resulted in real success. This approach has not yet demonstrated clinical effectiveness (at least with nerve growth factor) much beyond conventional analgesics, when its potential cost is more than an order of magnitude higher than that of conventional treatments. This scientometric assessment demonstrated a lack of real breakthrough developments.
Keywords: analgesics, bibliometrics, biomedical journals, drug design, patents, pharmaceutical industry
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