In Germany, sales of biotechnology drugs rose 11% to around 6 billion euros last year, compared with growth of just 2.4% for the pharmaceutical market as a whole, according to new figures.

Sales of biotech medicines accounted for 21% of the German prescription drug market last year, their biggest-ever share, according to research-based industry association the VFA, which also reports that particularly large increases were seen in sales of biotech drugs used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, rising 18%, and those for cancer, which were up 11%.

Commenting on the figures, analysts at IHS Global Insight point out that last year's fast growth in biotech drug sales followed stagnation in the sector the year before. This had reportedly been the result of the raising of the mandatory discount on non-reference priced drugs from 6% to 16%, and the price freeze on such drugs which remains in place until the end of this year.

IHS also points out that last year, most medicines which were subject to early benefit assessments under the pharmaceutical market reorganisation act (AMNOG) of December 2010 were still subject to free pricing. "In 2013, the new discounted prices - under AMNOG - for many of these drugs came into effect, which is highly likely to have a downward effect on sales values,” say the analysts.

In the first quarter of 2013, sales of medicines in Germany rose just 0.8% by value to 7.1 billion euros, but in volume terms sales were up 6.8%, largely as a result of an unusually long cold and flu season.

Meantime, Germany's drug pricing watchdog, the Federal Joint Committee (G-BA) has been assessing the cost-effectiveness of a range of innovative new medicines, and has reported that a third of them offer no additional benefit compared to what is already available.

The Committee has examined 37 new drugs and concluded that just seven have been shown to offer considerable benefits over treatments already available on the market. For 14 other products, the panel found a slight additional benefit and for three it considered such benefits to be "unquantifiable."

But in the case of 13 new drugs, the G-BA found that either they offered no additional benefits or that there was insufficient evidence to decide either way. The prices of these products are now expected to come under pressure as a result of ANMOG, which established a pricing structure in January 2011 under which products which do not offer additional benefits to treatments already on the market cannot receive higher prices.

The panel's chairman, Josef Hecken, is reported as stating that the results showed that these findings showed that the G-BA had carried out the assessments in a fair manner, adding: "we are clearly more positive than the results in other comparable countries."

The G-BA is also examining a range of older products, including a number of blockbusters, to assess whether their impact on patients' outcomes justify the prices paid for them by the statutory health insurance funds (GKV).

The G-BA is Germany's highest decision-making body for joint self-government of the country's physicians, dentists, hospitals and GKV, and establishes which medical treatments and services will be reimbursed by the GKV.