US Prescription Drug Sales Shrinking

June 8, 2009
Special Feature

The dollar amount of prescription drug sales is expected to dip slightly in the US in 2009 and experience slow growth worldwide.

There are many factors at work and, in the end, they add up to the first contraction in the value of prescription drug sales here in the US in more than five decades. According to IMS Health, a Connecticut-based research firm, the dollar amount of prescription drug sales will dip slightly in the US in 2009 and experience slow growth worldwide. The data were part of an IMS report that downgraded drug sales figures from previous predictions.

IMS predicted global drug sales this year would hit $750 billion, down from the $820 billion the firm forecast about six months ago. Here in the US, IMS sees a drop in sales of 1% to 2% to the equivalent of between $280 and $290 billion. According to a spokesperson for the firm, this is the first contraction in US prescription drug sales in the 52 years that IMS has been tracking the market. In its previous forecast, IMS had projected a slight increase in sales for the US market. Looking out over the next five years, IMS sees a US growth rate that is basically flat.

One obvious culprit in the diminishing sales figures is the increased use of cheaper generic prescription drugs. And as more best-selling brand-name drugs like Lipitor, Plavix, and Prevacid come off patent over the next few years, the impact of generics on prescription drug sales will grow. The shrinking economy has also taken a toll as people are cutting back on a variety of healthcare services, including doctor visits and prescription drug therapy.