India’s asthma drug market is set to grow from a value of $246 million in 2009 to $403 million in 2014, representing an annual growth rate of 10%, according to a new study.

This increase will be fueled by improved access to medical care, a growing drug-treated population and a rising number of higher-income, brand-conscious asthma patients demanding more efficacious agents, says the report, from research firm Decision Resources.  

Last month, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reported that 13 million people in India over the age of 15 suffer from asthma, or around 2% of this total age group. Nearly 7 million of sufferers are men and just over six million women, while the worst-affected age group is the 15-35-year-olds, it added.

Decision Resources analyst Manashi Sherawat points out that, at $246 million, India’s asthma market is close to some European Union (EU) countries in dollar terms.

“In 2009, multinational pharmaceutical companies accounted for 5% of total sales in the Indian asthma market and, while uptake of western-branded asthma drugs will increase by 2014, these drugs will face fierce competition from less-expensive Indian brands and generics,” adds Dr Sherawat.

The report advises multinational pharmaceutical companies that fixed-dosed combination drugs represent a major opportunity for them in this market; use of combination therapy as maintenance treatment will increase as medical practice in India shifts from treating asthma on an as-needed basis toward treating it as a chronic disease that requires maintenance treatment. Specifically, Indian specialists anticipate that fixed-dosed combination therapies such as long-acting beta2 agonist (LABA)/inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) will experience the highest uptake.

“Indian specialists struggle with patient compliance when treating asthma. The importance of consistent maintenance therapy is paramount because improved disease outcomes are not achieved unless maintenance therapies are administered consistently. The Indian asthma market would benefit from new, more-convenient therapies, which would boost patient compliance,” says Dr Sherawat.

- The ICMR study, which looked at India’s chronic disease (CRD) burden overall, also reported that another 11 million people in the country aged over 35 suffer from chronic bronchitis, including 6.7 million male patients and just over 4 million women sufferers.

Tobacco smoke and indoor pollution are two major causes of CRDs and both are preventable, but India has no national programme to tackle the problem, said researchers.