CRO market to reach $44.4bn by 2021

By Melissa Fassbender

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/eaglesky)
(Image: Getty/eaglesky)
The global contract research organization (CRO) market is forecasted to grow 12% year-on-year through 2021 – led by IQVIA with 12.4% of the market share.

The prediction is in line with a previous report from Grand View Research​, according to which the market will reach $45.2bn by 2022.

Ravi Kiran, pharmaceutical consultant at The Business Research Company​, told us the 12% growth rate is an acceleration from the 10% growth rate recorded through 2017. Consequently, the market is currently expected to reach $44.4bn by 2021, according to a report published by the research firm.

IQVIA ​is the largest player in the global CRO market​ with a 12.4% share, followed by LabCorp​, ICON​, PAREXEL​, and PPD​.

Read more:​ Sizing up: Does CRO consolidation leave space for smaller firms?

According to the report, North America is the largest region for the production of CRO services, at $18.8bn. CRO consumption in the same market is worth $20.8bn, or about 47% of the global total.

“The large market size can be attributed to the presence of a large number of pharmaceutical companies and extensive drug development activity in the region, especially in the USA,”​ said Kiran.

However, while the use of lower-cost offshore locations for some CRO activities by US pharmaceutical companies results in the differences between production and consumption – the majority of US outsourced activity remains within the country.

Accounting for about 33% of the CRO market, drug discovery was the largest segment by service type in 2017.


Oncology was the largest the segment by therapeutic area, with about 25% of the total market. However, the smaller metabolic disease segment is growing faster at 17% a year, according to the report.


“Declining growth in the pharmaceutical market is affecting the CRO industry, though not in the obvious way,”​ Kiran added, noting that the double-digit growth rates of some pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have recently been shrinking to single digits.

Kiran said: “Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have been confronted with the need to minimize their drug production and development costs which have forced most of them to evaluate cost-saving options such as outsourcing.”

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