The pharmaceutical industry, after years of research flops that led some to write its obituary, shows signs it is coming back to life.

Credit a revamped research approach by the industry, which, after years of focusing on me-too drugs for ills that were already well treated, is pouring firepower into diseases that aren’t.

Companies have won marketing approval so far this year for 20 innovative medicines that work differently or better than existing drugs, or tackle ailments lacking good treatments, according to the Food and Drug Administration. “New molecular entities,” the FDA calls them. There were just 21 such approvals all last year.

Recently approved are the first therapy shown to extend life for people with advanced melanoma, the deadly skin cancer; the first new treatment for lupus in over 50 years; and two drugs for hepatitis C that are far more effective than current care.

“We’re seeing a lot of innovation, much more than in recent memory,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s drug division, calling today’s laboratory output a “turning point” in drug development.

She added: “If you’re a patient with a terrible disease, a serious cancer or something like that, I think you ought to take heart from what we are seeing.”

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