Rx Drug Sales Growth Lowest Since 1961

The sales of prescription drugs grew 3.8% last year, to $286.5 billion, the lowest rate of increase since a 3.3% rise in 1961, according to a recent report from IMS Health, a pharmaceutical marketing

65%Percentage of US citizens age 65 and older who are enrolled in the Medicare Part D program. (IMS Health, 2008)

The sales of prescription drugs grew 3.8% last year, to $286.5 billion, the lowest rate of increase since a 3.3% rise in 1961, according to a recent report from IMS Health, a pharmaceutical marketing consulting firm. Among the primary reasons for the decline, according to the report, was the availability of cheaper generic versions of brand-name drugs that lost patent protection. Sales of generics grew by 10% and accounted for two-thirds of all prescriptions written, while brand-name medications with $17 billion in sales lost exclusivity. Fewer new drugs and product safety issues were also a factor in the decline.

The increase in sales fell far short of the 8% rise in 2006, a jump that was mostly fueled by the then new Medicare prescription drug benefit. According to the IMS Health report, almost two-thirds of US seniors are now covered by the program, which accounted for 19% of all prescription drug sales in 2007, a slight increase over the previous year.

“The US pharmaceutical market has entered a new era—one characterized by more modest growth due to the continuing impact of new generics products, fewer and more narrowly indicated novel medications, and closer scrutiny of safety issues,” explained Murray Aitken, IMS senior vice president.

“Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

—Rudyard Kipling