News

December 3, 2007

Measuring the Success of a Drug

Jacquelynn Molzon ’08 discusses her honors work with Christopher Ruebeck, assistant professor of economics and business

Jacquelynn Molzon ’08 (Durham, N.C.) is pursuing a B.S. in biology and A.B. in economics and business. A Trustee Scholar, Molzon is currently working on her honors thesis entitled “Determinants of Pharmaceutical Market Success” with Christopher Ruebeck, assistant professor of economics and business. The following is a first-hand account of Molzon’s experiences in researching and writing her thesis.

When entering my senior year of college my goal was to complete a thesis. It is through my current research that I am cap-stoning my academic pursuits at Lafayette. Throughout all of my classroom experiences and laboratory studies, my thesis provides the most integrative approach to learning. My honors thesis is a synthesis between both of my majors as I am investigating the determinants of the market success of a pharmaceutical drug. This endeavor demands that I draw from my knowledge of biology and economics and from the resources provided by Lafayette.

The pharmaceutical industry’s success depends on each company’s research and development of new drugs. Within the past 30 years, spending on pharmaceutical research has steadily increased. Before an ethical or prescription drug enters the market in the United States, several regulatory hurdles must be cleared. The first is establishing and applying for a patent. The next step is to apply for an Investigational New Drug (IND) through the FDA to begin clinical trials. Following three phases of clinical tests, a company can submit a New Drug Application (NDA) to the FDA for approval to market the drug to consumers. After approval of the NDA a company has completed the roughly 15-year process of research and developing a new drug.

The time period of interest in this research is between the IND application and the NDA approval or entrance into the market place. I am planning an empirical regression analysis on pharmaceutical drugs from 1986-2007. Using a probit function, my dependent variable is whether the drug enters the market (successful event) or dies during clinical testing (unsuccessful event).

An honors thesis at Lafayette is a yearlong endeavor of research and analysis culminating in a thesis defense in April. At this point, I have performed a literature review of over 30 journal articles within the pharmaceutical industry to view the current and past research on this topic. I am combining work of three different areas of research about pharmaceutical drugs: economic effectiveness of ethical drugs, entrance of generic drugs to the market, and vertical integration of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

Pharmaceutical and biotech industries often rely on one another and work in tandem for research and marketing support on a drug. This variable will show how the approval of a pharmaceutical drug by the FDA is affected by this partnership.

My research is conducted under the supervision of my thesis advisor, Chris Ruebeck. He works with me to challenge my economic knowledge and analysis of this industry. Additional members of my thesis committee provide further support.

I am currently working on collecting my data. I am using two databases, Adis R&D Insight and Recap Database in addition to publicly available information to obtain the variables of interest. I work with a personal research librarian who assists in collecting the data from the Adis database.

Lafayette fosters individual research and has allowed me the opportunity to specialize my honors topic to my own interests. This topic not only merges my interests at college, but also future professional goals. Although an honors thesis does demand a lot of individual research, I find that this process has forced me to interact with several departments on a weekly basis to facilitate research. This is an excellent example of what makes Lafayette stand apart as a research institution; no department stands alone.

On campus, Molzon has served as an orientation leader and is currently vice president of the Lafayette College Crew Team. She is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the International Honor Society for Economics, and participates weekly in peer tutoring and prison tutoring. Molzon has also served internships and externships at International Business Machines, Universal Buzz, GfK Market Measures, and Mercury Interactive.

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