1997 drug sales may surpass 1996 final tally

March 1, 1998
Pharmaceutical Representative

The U.S. pharmaceuticals industry could record double-digit sales growth in 1997, according to third- quarter figures analyzed by IMS America, Plymouth Meeting, PA.

The U.S. pharmaceuticals industry could record double-digit sales growth in 1997, according to third- quarter figures analyzed by IMS America, Plymouth Meeting, PA.

The research firm reported that, year-to-date through September 1997, drug sales totaled more than $69.4 billion. At the same time last year, sales were 12% lower.

According to Gary Friend, a spokesperson for IMS America, the final sales tally for pharmaceutical products in 1997 could easily climb above last year's total. The industry's final sales tally for 1996 was $85.4 billion - 12% greater than the tally the year before.

At press time, IMS America calculated the year-to-date sales through November to be more than $84.6 billion.

Figures were calculated according to data gathered from independent and chain pharmacies, mass merchandisers, proprietary stores, food-store pharmacies, non-federal hospitals, federal facilities, clinics, long-term care facilities and HMOs.

New products and line extensions were responsible for 9% of the prescription drug industry's high-powered growth in the third quarter of 1997, compared with 6.7% in the third quarter of 1996.

"This year, more than one-third of the industry's growth has come from products less than two years old," said Myron Holubiak, general manager of IMS America's consulting and analysis division.

Sales leaders

The best-selling drug in the United States is Astra-Merck's Prilosec, according to the firm's product ranking analysis. Its sales reached nearly $1.7 billion in the first three quarters of 1997, a 37% year-to-date increase over the previous year. It outperformed last year's leader, Glaxo Wellcome's Zantac, which lost its patent protection mid-1997.

Other top-selling products included Eli Lilly's Prozac, Roerig's Zoloft, SmithKline Beecham's Paxil, Merck's Zocor and Schering-Plough's Claritin.

Anti-ulcer medicines, such as Prilosec and Zantac, remained the sales leader among therapeutic classes. They accounted for 6.7% of total sales, or $4.7 billion, during the first nine months of 1997.

Other therapeutic classes that demonstrated significant sales growth last year included antipsychotics, up 68%; oral diabetes products, up 45%; prescription cholesterol reducers, up 38%; and oral antihistamines, up 30%.

The industry's sales leaders are Bristol-Myers Squibb and Glaxo Wellcome. Johnson & Johnson, Merck, American Home Products and Pfizer were also among the industry's sales leaders.

Prescription volume

By the end of the third quarter, prescription volume totaled nearly 1.9 billion, a 5% increase over the same time period in 1996.

Premarin, manufactured by Wyeth-Ayerst, was the most prescribed medicine with a generous 33.6 million dispensed prescriptions.

Non-injectable codeine and combinations supplanted calcium channel blockers as the most commonly prescribed therapeutic class of drugs.

Among the major pharmaceutical corporations, American Home Products dispensed the most prescriptions - 125.8 million. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis followed closely behind, each registering more than 100 million prescriptions through the third quarter. PR