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Drugmakers won US approval for 45 first-of-a-kind drugs in 2015, the most in 19 years

WASHINGTON – Approvals for first-of-a-kind drugs climbed higher last year, pushing the annual tally of new U.S. drugs to its highest level in 19 years.

The rising figures reflect an industry-wide focus on drugs for rare and hard-to-treat diseases, which often come with streamlined reviews, extra patent protections and higher price tags.

The Food and Drug Administration approved 45 drugs with never-before-sold ingredients in 2015, edging past the previous year’s tally of 41, which had previously been the highest number since 1996.

FDA drug approvals are considered a barometer of industry innovation and the government’s efficiency in reviewing new therapies.