Sales of drug products to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in seven major world markets will increase from a value of around $8.3 billion in 2010 to more than $13.4 billion by 2020, according to new forecasts.

This fast growth in these seven major markets - the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and Japan - will be driven by the nations' expanding ageing populations, an increase in drug treatment and the uptake of premium-priced combination products, according to the report, which is published by Decision Resources.

The COPD drug-treated population will expand from a total of around 19 million patients in the world's major pharmaceutical markets last year to reach nearly 25 million in 2020, says the report. The market's growth will be further driven by the uptake of novel long-acting beta2 agonist/long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LABA/LAMA) fixed-dose combination products, such as Boehringer Ingelheim's olodaterol/tiotropium, given that these products are expected to be more expensive than single-agent bronchdilators.

"The LABA/LAMA combinations will offer more potent bronchodilation than currently-available treatments, and thought leaders hope that they will also be more effective than currently-available treatments in reducing the frequency of COPD exacerbations," comments Amanda Puffer, an analyst at Decision Resources.

"LABA/LAMA combinations will contribute to the erosion of tiotropium sales and are expected to become the sales-leading drug class in COPD by 2020," she adds.

The report also points out that the loss of patent protection and/or market exclusivity for many top-selling products will constrain the COPD market. In particular, it says that the two maintenance therapies which currently dominate sales - Boehringer Ingelheim/Pfizer's Spiriva (tiotropium bromide) and GlaxoSmithKline's Advair/Seretide/Adoair (salmeterol/fluticasone propionate) - together captured 62% of the COPD market in 2010, but they will account for only 15% of total sales in 2020, as a result of generic competition.