The global pharmaceutical market is continuing to witness a slowdown, according to the latest data from IMS Health, which show that sales through retail pharmacies in the world’s 13 key markets rose just 6% to close at $349 billion dollars in the twelve months to January 2005.

Sales in the North American region rose 7% during the year to $185 million, including a 10% hike in Canada to $10 million and a 7% rise in the USA to $175 million. Japan rose just 2% to almost $58 billion, while sales in the top five European markets grew by 4% to just under $87 billion, with the UK leading the pack with a 7% hike in sales to $15.7 billion. Sales in Spain rose 6% to $10 billion and France climbed 5% to $21 billion. Germany continues to head the list, but only managed a 3% increase to $25 billion.

In Latin America, the largest growth came from Brazil, which witnessed a 19% rise in sales to $5 billion, while Argentina recorded a healthy 14% increase to almost $2 billion and Mexico was up 9% to $6 billion.

Cardiovascular drugs continue to lead the therapeutic category league table, with a 7% increase in sales to $68 billion, closely followed by central nervous system products, which rose 9% to $65 billion. The greatest increases came from the cytostatic drugs and blood agents – up 12% to $17 billion and $13 billion respectively.

The biggest selling drug continues to be Pfizer’s $11 billion cholesterol-lowerer, Lipitor (atorvastatin), which is growing at a rate of almost 14%. And Pfizer continues to head the company league table, followed by GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co, Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca.