The decline in Spain’s national drug spending dropped from 17.5% in 2012 to 6.1% in 2013, to total 9.18 billion euros, and sales have in fact been growing during each of the last six months, according to new data.

Also in 2013, the number of prescriptions fell 5.93% to 859.5 million compared with a 11.6% drop in prescriptions written the year before, say reports. 

However, an analysis of the monthly trend for 2013 shows that spending on medicines by the national health system (SNS) actually rose for six consecutive months in the second half of last year, and that December 2013’s expenditures were up 6.9% compared with December 2012, reaching 762 million euros. Moreover, 70.5 million prescriptions were written in December 2013, compared to 66.4 million in the previous December.

Commenting on these developments, analysts at IHS Global Insight also point out that, in first-half 2013, generics accounted for 45.84% of prescriptions supplied through the SNS, compared to 39.7% in the previous year.

These sales were worth 1.11 million euros and accounted for just 20.62% of total drug spending in first-half 2013, which is an indication of generics' comparatively low prices, they add.

Spain Health Minister Ana Mato is quoted as stating that the drop in average drug prices is the result of the government’s spending control measures. These have included a number of Royal Decree Laws: - 4/2010, which lowered the reference prices of generics that had been on the market for more than 10 years; -  8/2010, which reduced the prices paid by the government for drugs and medical devices; - 9/2011, that made generic prescribing mandatory; and - 16/2010 , which introduced mandatory drug co-payments for all patients, including retirees.

HIS Global Insight also comments that while the pharmaceutical industry is likely to be encouraged by the six months' consecutive growth in the market, sector leaders have been predicting slight declines in drug spending and in numbers of prescriptions written over the short term.

And Business Monitor International (BMI) has also sounded a note of caution. Pointing to the continued challenge to drugmakers in Spain presented by the government’s “multifaceted” cost-control strategy - which targets patients, companies and the healthcare sector in general - it warned the industry last month that “while lobbying the government to ease up on measures targeting the pricing of drugs may work to ease pressures on revenues, we believe the complexity of the cost-containment measures will inevitably continue to work against companies.”