Greater access to medicines by the world’s rapidly-expanding middle class, coupled with stronger economic prospects in developed nations, will bring total spending on medicines to the $1 trillion threshold in 2014 and to $1.2 trillion by 2017, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics has reported.

Global drug spending grew 2.6% to $965 billion last year, and is forecast to increase at a 3%-6% compound annual rate over the next five years, says the Institute, in a new report.

New product launches will be dominated by innovative specialty medicines, particularly for the treatment of cancer, and payer concerns about rising costs for these drugs will intensify in both developed and pharmerging markets, it notes. 

Spending on speciality medicines is expected to reach $230-$240 billion in 2017, 38% from $171 billion in 2012, and these products will be the single largest contributor to branded drug spending growth to 2017. Most access to them is in developed markets, where spending is expected to increase 30% over the next five years to $190-$200 million, and while pharmerging markets’ use of specialty drugs is limited, their spending is expected to rise nearly 90% through 2017, to $40-$50 billion annually.

“As we pass the fifth anniversary of the global economic slowdown, and with many countries moving toward universal health coverage, we expect to see continued divergence in growth rates between the pharmerging and developed markets,” said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

“Austerity measures aimed at medicine budgets, along with the growing availability of cower-cost generics, will lead to annual spending growth of 1%-4% among the markets of North America, Europe and Japan. In contrast, pharmerging nations will experience 10%-13% spending growth overall - the result of economic expansion, changes in epidemiology and demographics, and greater government and private insurance funding for healthcare,” he added.

IMS Health also expects, each year, an average 35 new medicines a year to launch with the potential to transform disease treatment. Increasing numbers of New Molecular Entities (NMEs) approvals are expected over the next five years, similar to the levels of the mid-2000s. Most new launches will address unmet needs in specialty disease areas, orphan diseases and small patient populations.

Recent and near-term launches of new medicines primarily address disease profiles of patients in high-income countries. A growing number of these conditions are also prevalent across the globe, but several of the most burdensome - such as malaria, neonatal sepsis and tuberculosis - have few new treatment options, it notes.