Worldwide sales of advanced drug delivery systems - such as inhalers, injections and infusion pumps - will grow from a value of $139 billion in 2009 to $197 billion in 2014, says a new report.

A number of key factors are set to have a major effect on future growth of the drug delivery device market, including the rise in global population combined with the ageing of populations in the mature health care markets, says the study, which has been produced by the Judge Business School in Cambridge, UK, with Cambridge Designer Partnership, a consulting company which develops drug delivery devices.

Added to these factors is a shifting global disease burden, with the world seeing increasing dominance of non-communicable diseases, plus the effects on the generic drug sector of the "patent cliff" - seven of the world's 20 top-selling drugs are set to lose their patent protection over the next few years, with hundreds more likely to follow over the next decade.

"We see the emerging economies significantly increasing demand for the ever-widening range of generic drugs," says Tom Oakley, head of drug delivery at Cambridge Design Partnership.

"As the capital markets follow this structural change in the pharmaceutical industry by changing their investment patterns, the drug delivery sector must also adapt to take advantage of this opportunity," he says, adding that he is predicting "exciting innovations in both low and high-end devices over the next decade."

"We expect an opportunity in the generics market to centre around patient-purchased drugs, where new consumer groups will be looking for value for money," adds Matt Schuman, senior partner at Cambridge Design Partnership. He advises manufacturers to learn from the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, creating differentiation and gaining competitive advantage through innovations in branding, usability and shelf appeal.

The report's analysis of opportunities in the mature health care markets concludes that, over the next 10 years, these will be driven by the necessity to reduce health care costs and improve outcomes.

"At first sight, this sounds like a contradiction, but these market changes provide opportunities for innovation and we can see several exciting new opportunities," says Tom Oakley. 

"We think, in the future, patients are going to be much more involved in their own treatments to reduce costs and smart drug delivery technologies are part of what is going to enable this change safely. As device developers, we are going to have to think of new ways to increase the performance and safety of therapies at lower cost," he says.

"We expect health care systems increasingly to make drug choices based on calculations of the total cost of a patient's disease, and devices that can contribute to reducing overall costs could have significant commercial value. This means looking at system-level solutions integrating drug delivery, diagnostics and health informatics in new patient-centred systems," Mr Oakley forecasts.