The outlook for the pharmaceutical industry is bright, according to a new report that identifies a number of positive trends.

One of the most striking findings of the 2014 Pharmaceutical R&D Factbook, compiled by CMR International, part of Thomson Reuters, is that worldwide pharmaceutical sales will rise to $1 trillion this year. That's up from an all-time high of approximately $980 billion in 2013. The authors noted that the rate of growth slowed down last year as patent protection expired on a number of blockbuster drugs in markets where lower-cost generic equivalents are readily available.

Still, there has recently been an increase in New Molecular Entities (NMEs) hitting the market and in drugs successfully completing late-stage clinical trials. Contradicting perceptions that R&D productivity has declined, 2013 saw the third-highest number of NMEs launched in the last decade.

The industry is responding to demands for safer, more effective and differentiated drugs and is diversifying into areas of unmet need and rare indications. According to CMR, around half of all drugs introduced in 2013 were specialty indicated for the treatment of cancer, pulmonary arterial hypertension and HIV. All first-world launches of new oncology drugs last year received orphan drug status.

Cancer treatment is benefiting from advances in precision medicine and this field continues to attract the highest amount of investment across all therapeutic areas, CMR found.

Another indicator of the strength of the pharmaceutical industry is the trend towards stable success rates across the later phases of drug development. This suggests that the industry is improving its ability to "fail fast, fail cheaply," thereby increasing the success rate of more advanced drug candidates.

"With much of the recent conversation focused on the hurdles in the pharma space, it is reassuring to see positive developments and an encouraging future landscape," commented Jon Brett-Harris, managing director of Thomson Reuters Life Sciences.