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Factors associated with success of market authorisation applications for pharmaceutical drugs submitted to the European Medicines Agency



To identify factors associated with success of Market Authorisation Applications (MAAs) for pharmaceutical drugs submitted to the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), with an emphasis on the Scientific Advice (SA) given by the Committee for Human Medicinal Products (CHMP).


MAAs with a CHMP decision (outcome) between 1 January 2004 and 31 December 2007 were included in the analysis. Factors evaluated were: company size, orphan drug (OD) status, product type, existence of SA, compliance with SA, therapeutic area and year of outcome. Compliance with SA was retrospectively assessed with reference to three critical clinical variables in pivotal studies: choice of primary endpoint, selection of control and statistical methods.


Of 188 MAAs with an outcome, 137 (72.9%) were approved, whereas 51 (27.1%) were not approved or were withdrawn by the company. In the simple logistic regression analysis, company size [odds ratio (OR) 2.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.92; 4.56, p < 0.0001) was positively correlated with a positive outcome, whereas OD status (OD vs. non-OD: OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.19; 0.77, p = 0.0067) was negatively correlated. A total of 59 (31.4%) MAAs had obtained SA related to one or more of the three critical variables. Thirty-nine of these were assessed as being compliant with SA. Obtaining an SA per se was not associated with outcome (SA vs. no-SA: OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.49; 1.88, p = 0.92), but complying with SA was significantly associated with positive outcome (compliant with SA vs. no-SA: OR 14.71, 95% CI 1.95; 111.2; non-compliant with SA vs. no-SA: OR 0.17, 95% CI 0.06; 0.47, p < 0.0001). Stepwise regression analysis revealed that company size and SA compliance were independent predictors of outcome. The proportion of the MAAs that had received SA increased from 22% in 2004 to 47% in 2007. Company size and product type were associated with the frequency of requesting SA (26, 33 and 46% for small, medium-sized and large companies, respectively; 16, 39 and 48% for known chemical substances, new chemical substances and biologics, respectively). Factors related to compliance with SA were company size and OD status (25, 60 and 84% for small, medium-sized, and large companies, respectively; 77 and 38% for non-OD and OD status, respectively).


The strong association between company size and outcome suggests that resources and experience in drug development and obtaining regulatory approval are critical factors for a successful MAA. In addition, obtaining and complying with SA appears to be a predictor of outcome. Based on this analysis, companies, particularly smaller ones and those developing orphan drugs, are recommended to engage in a dialogue with European regulators via the SA procedure. Obtaining SA early in development and at major transition points as well as compliance with the advice given by the CHMP are recommended.

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We want to thank Nikolaos Zafiropoulos and Francesco Pignatti for fruitful discussions throughout the preparation of this manuscript.


The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the authors and may not be understood or quoted as being made on behalf of or reflecting the position of the EMEA or one of its committees or working parties.

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Correspondence to Jan Regnstrom.

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Jan Regnstrom and Franz Koenig contributed equally to this paper

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Regnstrom, J., Koenig, F., Aronsson, B. et al. Factors associated with success of market authorisation applications for pharmaceutical drugs submitted to the European Medicines Agency. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 66, 39 (2010).

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  • Drug approval
  • Drug development
  • Regulatory
  • Scientific advice