Despite the growing application of antidepressants in various anxiety disorders, and interest in their use for certain central nervous system disorders, a new report from Frost & Sullivan indicates the market in Europe will contract over the next six years to $4.5 billion, from $4.7 billion in 2005. But it is not all bad news as F&S analyst Sumanth Kambhammettu says a renewed focus on the serotonin norpinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and other new classes of antidepressants, will help drive such compounds to blockbuster status.

The antidepressant market has seen destabilisation after safety warnings were slapped on the labels of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class of drugs, which included some of the biggest selling compounds in the world, such as GlaxoSmithKline’s Seroxat/Paxil (paroxetine) and Pfizer’s Xoloft (sertraline). On top of this, a number of such drugs have been hit by generic competition, which F&S believes will also contribute to the increased market share for SNRIs and others, and shake the dominant foundations of the SSRIs. However, SSRIs are still being prescribed off-label for a variety of conditions, such as phobia and menopausal symptoms, which could prevent it contracting more significantly.

“Increasing evidence linking SSRIs to instances of suicide among children and adolescents is hampering market performance,” remarks Mr Kambhammettu. “In addition, the implementation of regulatory standards such as the decentralisation of reimbursement policies in Italy and reimbursement restrictions on certain drugs enforced by the majority of governments in Europe is a factor restraining market progress.”

And F&S has a word of encouragement for pharmaceutical firms, calling for ramped up R&D investment into new drugs with improved safety profiles and quicker onset of action. Another important future focus is product lifecycle management, concludes Mr Kambhammettu, which would allow pharmaceutical firms to capture maximum revenues during the period when a compound is under patent, adding: “Establishing marketing collaborations to implement aggressive marketing and product promotion will also become crucial to gain a competitive edge in the market.”