The world pharmaceutical market should grow at the same rate (4.5%-5.5%) next year as it has in 2008, but the USA can expect a slowdown.

These are the findings of the annual forecast released by IMS Health, which says that global drug sales in 2009 will top $820 billion. However that will be thanks to sustained double-digit growth in key emerging countries offsetting a slower pace in more established markets.

Murray Aitken, senior vice president of Healthcare Insight IMS, said “in many respects, 2009 will reflect the new shape of the global pharmaceutical market”, as it continues to contend with the shift in growth from developed countries to emerging ones, specialist-driven products playing a larger role, blockbusters losing patent protection, “and the rising influence of regulators and payers on healthcare decisions”. He added that “layered on top is the uncertainty in the global economic environment and its effect on demand”.

IMS says the US pharmaceutical market is forecast to grow 1%-2% to $292-$302 billion, hit by patent expirations, fewer product launches and a tighter economy. The top five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) should grow at 3%-4% next year to $162-$172 billion, while Japan will rise 4%-5% to $84-$88 billion.

More impressive growth will come from what IMS calls the ‘pharmerging’ markets of China, Brazil, India, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and Russia. These are forecast to grow at a combined 14%-15% to $105-$115 billion.

The report also notes that $24 billion of branded products will lose their market exclusivity in the top eight markets in 2009. This will contribute to generics sales of more than $68 billion next year, and a 5%-7% growth rate, which is similar to 2008 but lower than in 2006 and 2007. The decline is being driven by growth slowdowns in the USA and UK, “where many competitors in large therapy areas are creating a fierce price war and cutting margins for generics manufacturers”, IMS says.

Next year, the uptake of biosimilars in human growth hormones and erythropoietins in Europe, the adoption of generics in Japan and the use of contracting strategies across the European Union could have a long-term impact, says the report. So too could the deregulation of the pharmacy sector in Europe, and the potential for healthcare policy changes in the USA following the presidential election.

Mr Aitken said biopharmaceutical companies “can still find avenues of growth” by focusing on emerging markets, specialist products and biologics, “by demonstrating the superior value of their medicines and by re-invigorating their established brands”. However he argues that “the growth is not where it used to be, and it may not be as easy to come by, but it is out there”.