The world prescription drug market climbed 6.4% in 2007 to $712 billion, according to IMS Health.

The USA continues to be the biggest market with $286.5 billion in sales, which represents 25.5% of the total sector but the figure is its lowest ever level of contribution. This links to an IMS report last week which noted that 2007 US prescription drug turnover grew at 3.8%, its slowest rate since 1961.

The five major European markets – France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain – grew 4.8% to $140 billion, but the rest of the continent enjoyed an impressive rise. It was up 10.9% to $81.6 billion, driven by Russia (+20.2%) and Turkey (+17.2%).

The Japanese market was pretty sluggish, rising 3.8% to $65.2 billion, while Asia (excluding Japan but including Australia and New Zealand) grew 13.3%. The most striking growth was seen in China (+25.7%), India (+13.0%) and South Korea (+10.7%). Latin American markets were up 11.6% to $42.4 billion, IMS noted.

Oncology was the top therapeutic category on a global basis last year, posting $41.4 billion in sales, followed by cholesterol drugs which had revenues of $33.7 billion. Respiratory drugs, proton pump inhibitors and diabetes products came next.

In terms of brands, Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) continued to be the biggest-seller at $13.5 billion (-2.8%), followed by Sanofi-Aventis Plavix (clopidogrel) at $7.3 million (+20.5%) and AstraZeneca’s Nexium (esomeprazole), which had sales of $7.2 billion (+5.3%).