News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

US drug sales continue to rise

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:518
  1. Scott Gottlieb
  1. New York

    Despite continuing pricing pressures and competition from generic drugs, total US pharmaceutical sales grew 12% last year to $220bn (£140bn; ‡202bn), according to new data.

    The pace of growth in US sales of prescription products slowed in 2002, compared with the 18% increase in 2001, according to the PharmaTrends 2002 report, released by healthcare tracking firm NDC Health.

    The top five classes of drug remained in the same position as in 2001. Cholesterol lowering statins were first, with sales of $12.5bn and 6.5% of the total market share. Sales in drugs for seizure disorders grew fastest among the top 10 treatment classes, with 22.7% growth in 2002, yielding a sales volume of $5.5bn. Branded products were responsible for most of the growth in these treatment classes, with generic products reducing growth in some classes.

    The analysis of pharmaceutical sales and purchasing trends includes drug purchasing patterns and identifies leading products, distribution channels, company rankings, research and development trends, and industry growth.

    Pharmaceutical companies' sales of new products were worth $156m in 2002. Among the top selling new products were oxaliplatin (Eloxatin), Sanofi-Synthelabo's colorectal cancer drug, worth $75.6 million in sales; fulvestrant (Faslodex), AstraZeneca's injectable treatment for breast cancer, worth $23.6m; and tegaserod (Zelnorm), Novartis's drug for irritable bowel syndrome, worth $14m.

    Worldwide drug sales grew 8% last year to $430bn, according to another report, released by IMS Health, a health information and consulting company. In the European Union, sales rose 8% to $91bn. In the rest of Europe sales rose 9% to $11.3bn.

    Europe's share of the global market was 25%, and the US share was 51%. Europe and the United States once had roughly similar shares of the drug market, but over the last decade there has been a shift to the United States.

    In last year's sales figures the hardest hit region was Latin America, where drug sales dropped 10% to $16.5bn. In Japan sales rose just 1% after the government forced prices down. Growth occurred because the Japanese are taking more drugs and are switching prescriptions to dearer drugs. The rest of Asia, Africa, and Australia showed a combined increase of 11%.

    The IMS Health report can be accessed at

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