Drug sales post healthy gains for 2006, but primary care categories slip

Global pharmaceutical sales grew 7% to $643 billion in 2006, according to IMS Health, while US drug sales were up 8.3% to $290.1 billion for the year, thanks to Medicare Part D and strong sales of specialty products -- particularly oncologics and autoimmune agents. Specialist-driven products contributed 62% of growth, compared with just 35% in 2000, the company said. Sales of oncologics were up 20.5% to $34.6 billion, with more than 380 compounds in development, including many targeted therapies in Phase III clinical trials. Autoimmune agents like Remicade and Humira were up 20% to $10.6 billion in sales, with a boost from new indications approved for existing medications. Respiratory drug sales were up 10% to $24.6 billion, and sales of lipid drugs continued to grow, up 7.5% to $35.2 billion. But some long-reliable primary care cash cows slipped due to generic incursions and OTC switches, with PPIs, antihistamines, platelet aggregation inhibitors and antidepressants losing ground. And products worth $14 billion in US sales lost patent protection over the course of the year.