U.S. pharmaceutical sales growth drops more than 4% in 2007

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The overall sales growth in the U.S. prescription market averaged 3.8 percent in 2007 compared with growth of more than 8 percent in 2006, according to the annual U.S. Pharmaceutical Market Performance Review from IMS Health, a provider of market intelligence to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

The total U.S. prescription sales reached $286.5 billion, with slower sales growth resulting from loss of exclusivity of branded medicines, fewer new product approvals, the leveling of year-over-year growth from the Medicare Part D program and the impact of safety issues, according the Norwalk, Conn.-based IMS.

The total U.S. dispensed prescription volume grew at a 2.8 percent pace compared with 4.6 percent in 2006, and overall, the top five therapeutic categories — antidepressants, lipid regulators, codeine & combination pain medications, ace inhibitors and beta blockers — continued to lead the market in terms of prescription utilization, IMS said.

With prescription sales of $18.4 billion, lipid regulators continued to be the largest therapy class in the U.S., despite a 15.4 percent year-over-year sales decline.

“In 2007, the U.S. pharmaceutical market experienced its lowest growth rate since 1961,” said Murray Aitken, senior vice president of healthcare insight at IMS. “The moderating growth trend that began in 2001 resumed last year following the one-time impact on market growth in 2006 from the implementation of Medicare Part D. Last year, we saw a continuing shift away from primary care classes to biotech and specialist-driven therapies, which grew at a 9 percent and 10 percent pace, respectively.”

Branded drugs representing $17 billion in sales lost exclusivity in 2007, helping to drive prescription volume growth of 10 percent for unbranded generics, according to IMS. In 2007, the report found that generics continued to replace branded prescriptions in the major therapeutic classes, increasing their share of total dispensed prescriptions to 67.3 percent.

In 2008, the company said it expects the introduction of new, novel biologics and vaccines, as well as the launch of five to eight new products with potential global blockbuster status, will help offset the impact of lower generics pricing. An additional $13 billion in branded products are likely to be exposed to generics this year, IMS said.

In the U.S., IMS forecasted compound annual pharmaceutical sales growth through 2012 of 3 to 6 percent. Dynamics that will shape the market during the next five years include the continued loss of exclusivity in major therapy areas, new specialist-driven products, greater levels of therapeutic substitution, along with greater awareness and focus on safety issues, according to the report.