Demand for pharmaceuticals in China is projected to increase nearly 14% a year to reach a value of 375 billion yuan ($46.65 billion) in 2010, with drugs from Western companies showing the strongest growth, according to new market research.

The study, published by the Freedonia Group and entitled Pharmaceuticals in China said the key to growth by western companies will be new product introductions, especially for cardiovascular, neurological, cancer and viral diseases that are not treated effectively by currently-available therapies.

Western pharmaceuticals are forecast to generate demand of 248 billion yuan in 2010, comprising about two-thirds of the market, according to Freedonia. The best growth opportunities for these drugs will emerge in newly off-patent cholesterol-reducing, antipsychotic and second-generation antihistamine preparations.

Regulatory and commercial reforms will also open up distribution systems to a wider range of proprietary and generic drugs, notes a Xinhua news report on the study.

Meanwhile, over-the-counter medicines from the west will increasingly penetrate the Chinese market, as the government promotes the expansion of the retail drug sector to improve the accessibility of basic medicines to residents of rural and overcrowded urban areas.