Global pharmaceutical sales will rise 4.5%-5.5% this year to top $820 billion, but the US market will grow by no more than 4% to reach $292-$302 billion, says the US National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives (NAPRx).

Initial expectations for growth in the US market of 4%-6% have been revised downward because of the economic climate, and also reflect continuing patent expiries and fewer new product launches this year. Nevertheless, the healthcare industry “continues to be a star in the US economy,” says NAPRx, which is the largest US trade association for pharmaceutical salespeople.

The top five European Union (EU) countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - will grow 3%-4% this year, reaching sales of $162-$172 billion, it forecasts. EU-wide growth will be driven by the aging population and rising demand for preventive care but tempered by the increased impact of Health Technology Assessments (HTAs), the use of contracting by payers as a means of controlling costs and the decentralisation of government healthcare budgets.

Japan, the world's second-largest market, will see higher growth, at 4%-5% to $84-$88 billion, boosted by approvals for new anti-cancer agents, disease prevention programmes and the absence this year of the government's biennial price cuts. Moreover, government efforts to promote the use of generics will have only a modest impact on the market in 2009, the association forecasts.

The “pharmerging” markets - China, Brazil, India, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and Russia - are expected to grow at a combined rate of 14%-15%, producing overall sales of $105-$115 billion. Along with the pharmaceutical industry's growing focus on these high-growth markets, they are benefiting from increased government spending on healthcare and broader public and private healthcare funding, which is driving greater access to and demand for innovative medicines, it says.

Turning to the performances of individual drug products this year, NAPRx forecasts that those which mainly prescribed by specialists will show growth of 8%-9% and contribute 67% of total market expansion. Sales of biologic products will advance 11%-12%, while oncology products will be up 15%-16% and HIV therapies will rise 13%-14%. In contrast, sales of products which are generally prescribed by primary care physicians will advance just 2%-3%, due to the loss of patent exclusivity on a number of blockbusters and fewer significant product launches, it adds.