Objectives: Changes in the traditional model of drug development are creating a potential opportunity for New Zealand's drug development industry. This research evaluates whether New Zealand could utilise some of the policies employed by countries with successful drug development industries. Methods: A framework to support a drug development industry was developed by taking into account policies that affect the industry. The framework was then used to analyse the types of policies provided by different countries and to postulate six different models that support a pharmaceutical industry. Results: Countries with a successful drug development industry have identified their strengths, analysed the opportunities in the industry, and have employed consistent and specific policies in support of their industry. New Zealand's policy in support of its drug development industry is most similar to that of the medical research-based model of the UK, Australia and Canada. Conclusions: New Zealand needs to develop a consistent policy for support of its drug development industry based on identifying and focussing on the competencies where it is internationally competitive. A strong partnership with Australia could capitalise on the strengths of both countries and linkages with other Asia-Pacific countries could further promote the region's capabilities in drug development research.