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Biotech blockbusters push industry sales over $500 billion

Published on 14/03/05 at 10:01am

The global pharmaceutical industry achieved annual sales of over $500 billion for the first time ever in 2004, up 7% from the previous year.

Figures from IMS Health for the year show sales of $550 billion, with North America accounting for 45% of this total or $248 billion.

China showed the strongest growth with sales increasing 28% to $9.5 billion.The country is currently the ninth biggest market globally but is expected to move up one place by 2008.

Pfizer's cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor consolidated its position as the biggest selling drug in the world, with global sales of the drug growing nearly 14% to $12 billion.

Fastest growing of the top ten drugs was Sanofi-Aventis' anti-clotting drug Plavix which achieved 31.4% sales growth to reach $5 billion. Merck's Zocor remains the world's second biggest selling drug, but patent expiries around the world saw its sales slip 6.4% to $5.9 billion.

The 7% growth rate in global sales represents a 1% dip from 2003, but more worryingly, growth in the all-important US market fell nearly 4% to 8.3%. A mild flu season  and lower growth in proton pump inhibitors and antihistamines, thanks to the launch of OTC versions, were two of the reasons for the slowdown.

But Murray Aitken, IMS senior vice president, corporate strategy said other pressures were evident.

"The global growth rate moderated as the market is increasingly influenced by pressures and uncertainties, including pricing, safety and regulatory issues. Nevertheless, market growth continues to reflect the unmet need for medications, as well as ongoing demographic dynamics that are strengthening underlying demand.

"New opportunities are emerging in markets such as China, and from sources of innovation in biotechnology, which will continue to fuel future growth."

Seventeen drugs achieved blockbuster status in 2004, with sales of over $1 billion, and of these 11 originated from biotech companies. Overall, biotech products made up 27% of the active R&D pipeline, and 10% of global sales; IMS says it expects this proportion to grow substantially over the next five years.

Hypertension medicines, the angiotensin-II inhibitors, were the fastest growing class of drugs, posting 22% growth. Meanwhile, revenues from cancer treatments became increasingly important for the industry, growing 17% to $24 billion. The class overtook antidepressants and mood stabilisers to become the third most important area behind second placed antiulcerants and the long-standing number one therapeutic class cholesterol and triglyceride reducers.

"The rising sales of anti-cancer agents is another example of biotechnology impact in the global marketplace," commented Graham Lewis, IMS vice president, strategic consulting. "Today there are seven anti-cancer drugs - MabThera, Glivec, Eloxatine, Gemzar, Casodex, Taxotere and Zometa - that have achieved blockbuster status."

Sales growth in the oncology sector is expected to continue growing fast, thanks to the launch of new treatments ImClone/BMS' Erbitux and Genentech/Roche's Avastin in 2004, which are both expected to achieve blockbuster status.

 

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