Global pharmaceutical sales may rise 5 to 7 percent next year to $880 billion on soaring demand in developing nations led by China as it becomes the world's third-largest drug market, according to IMS Health Inc.

The 2011 projection compares with this year's 4 to 5 percent growth in drug sales to $840 billion, the research company based in Norwalk, Connecticut, said in a report released on Oct 7. Emerging markets including China and India are expected to expand by as much as 17 percent to $180 billion while growth in the United States market slows.

The world's largest market, the US, is growing at a historically low rate of 3 to 4 percent as patents expire on top-selling medicines and cheaper generic versions become available to consumers, said Murray Aitken, senior vice-president of IMS, in a telephone interview on Oct 6.

Drugs with sales of more than $30 billion are expected to lose patent protection next year, according to IMS.

"While the overall market will appear to rebound somewhat in 2011, the underlying constraints to growth in developed markets are stronger than ever," Aitken said. "Almost half of the global growth next year will come from China and the other emerging markets."

The five biggest European markets - Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom - will grow 1 to 3 percent as governments cut drug prices as part of efforts to restore fiscal balance, according to the IMS report. In the US, health plans will require pre-authorization for certain medications along with other measures intended to address rising health-care expenditures.

Generic copies will hit the market next year for Pfizer Inc's cholesterol pill Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug with sales of $11.4 billion in 2009. Generic versions of the second-best seller, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co's blood thinner Plavix, will become available in the US in 2012. Together with Eli Lilly & Co's antipsychotic Zyprexa and Johnson & Johnson's antibiotic Levaquin - also expected to lose market exclusivity - the drugs account for 93 million prescriptions a year, IMS said.

Developing countries are expected to pick up the slack for the lost revenue. IMS said it expects drug spending in China to increase at least 25 percent next year as the middle class expands and the government invests in health care. Japan is the second-biggest pharmaceutical market after the US.

Another bright spot for the industry is the anticipated introduction of several new treatments for diseases including melanoma, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis, the report said. IMS expects five products each potentially worth at least $1 billion in annual sales to be approved and launched by the end of next year.

These medicines could include AstraZeneca Plc's heart drug Brilinta, Bristol-Myers' apixaban for blood clots, Sanofi-Aventis SA's iniparib for breast cancer, the hepatitis C treatment telaprevir from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc and Bristol-Myers' ipilimumab for melanoma, Aitken said.

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