Drug sales through retail pharmacies in the world's 13 key markets hit $386.23 billion in the year to November 2006, representing annual growth of 5% at constant exchange, according to global healthcare information provider IMS Health's latest Retail Monitor.

Pharmaceutical turnover in Europe's top five markets (Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain) turned in 4% growth at $94.76 billion, while sales in North America of $209.98 billion, up 7%, were driven by a 9% leap in revenues from cytostatic products. Growth in Japan was flat at $56.78 billion.

In terms of therapeutic category, the key area globally was cytostatics, which achieved revenue growth of 13%. The single largest therapeutic subcategory in dollar sales continued to be the hypolipidaemia class, with $30.41 billion (+8%) and the next largest group was the antiulcerants, which generated turnover of $23.10 billion, up 3% over the year.

Once again, the biggest selling product was US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's lipid-lowering drug, Lipitor (atorvastatin), which raked in $11.62 billion, but with a reduced growth at 3.7%, while AstraZeneca’s antiulcerant Nexium (esomeprazole)) grew 16.2% to hold onto second place. Third was GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Advair/Seretide (salmeterol and fluticasone), followed by Sanofi-Aventis' antiplatelet drug, Plavix (clopidogrel), with Pfizer’s hypertension treatment Norvasc (amlodipine) coming in fifth.

The top five companies were Pfizer, GSK, Novartis, Sanofi and Merck & Co.