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US Drug Sales Growth Up In 2009

April 5, 2010
The Associated Press reports growth in U.S. sales of pharmaceuticals bounced back last year as rebates and low-cost generic drugs drove an increase in the number of prescriptions filled, according to data tracking firm IMS Health. U.S. pharmaceutical sales climbed 5.1 percent to $300.3 billion in 2009 after two prior years of slower growth. IMS Health attributed the turnaround to increased filling of prescriptions, which grew at a 2.1 percent pace compared with 1 percent in 2008. In response to the economic downturn, drugmakers have been offering co-pay coupons and other programs to help patients pay for their prescriptions. Those programs combined with offers on low-cost generic drugs from Wal-Mart, Walgreens and other retailers to drive sales. While an improvement over recent years, 2009 pharmaceutical market growth remained at historically low levels due to fewer product launches and low-cost generics replacing older brand-name drugs. Generic drugs, which often cost a fraction of branded products, made up 75 percent of all prescriptions filled last year. Another positive development for industry was expansion of specialty drugs, with sales accounting for 21 percent of the U.S. market. Specialty drugs include injectable, biotech medications to treat severe, chronic conditions like cancer and psoriasis. Antipsychotic drugs like Eli Lilly''s Zyprexa and AstraZeneca''s Seroquel remained the top-selling class of medications with $14.6 billion in sales last year. Drugs to treat heartburn and high cholesterol made up the second and third best-selling classes of drugs.