Published Online: Monday, May 1, 2006

Despite a slow year for new products entering the marketplace, US prescription drug sales rose by 5.4% to $251.8 billion in 2005?an increase of $12.9 billion from the previous year. Cholesterol reducers remain the top therapeutic class, with Pfizer's Lipitor once again claiming the #1 spot in both revenue sales and prescriptions dispensed. Merck's cholesterol drug Zocor, which comes off patent this year, again retained the #2 spot in drug sales. The top 10 prescriptions dispensed also included medications to treat high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, and asthma.

Biotech products continued to be major players in 2005, with sales in the sector increasing by 17.2% to $32.8 billion, according to IMS Health. Amgen's Aranesp, Enbrel, and Neulasta (#10, #11, and #19, respectively, in the total sales category) as well as Genentech's Rituxan (#27) contributed to the growth.

Generics produced a strong sales growth of 20.6% in 2005. Other factors that influenced pharmaceutical performance last year included fewer new chemical entities approved than expected, fewer and lower-performing product launches, the decreasing use of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) products, and more aggressive generic launches, IMS Health reported.

After hitting a 6-year high with 36 new molecular entities in 2004, the number of approvals fell to 20 in 2005. IMS predicts that the US pharmaceutical market will continue to grow at a compounded annual rate of 5% to 8% in the next 5 years. The increase will be sustained by new product launches, recovery from COX-2 drugs taken off the market, and increased medication use through Medicare Part D.

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