According to global healthcare information provider IMS Health’s latest Retail Monitor, drug sales through retail pharmacies in the world’s 13 key markets hit $361.60 billion in the year to July 2005, representing annual growth of 5% and slipping 1% from the previous month’s annual rate [[17/08/05c]].

Pharmaceutical turnover in Europe’s top five markets (Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain) turned in 3% growth at $89.94 billion (at constant exchange rates), marking a slight fall from the $90 billion recorded in June’s report. Sales in North America of $191.13 billion, up 6%, were driven by a 10% leap in revenues from cardiovascular products.

Meanwhile, overall growth in Japan inched up to 4% with sales of $60.11 billion, compared to the year to June 2005’s 3% growth. Similarly, turnover in the Latin American countries Mexico, Brazil and Argentina was 1% over last month’s survey, leaping 17% to $14.9 billion.

In terms of therapeutic category, the key area was in cytostatics, which achieved revenue growth of 12%. The single largest therapeutic subcategory in dollar sales continued to be the hypolipidaemia class, with $27.61 billion. This marked a rise of 8.9%, but was a small decrease from the last IMS Health Retail Monitor, which recorded growth of 9.4%. The next largest group was the anti-ulcerants, which generated turnover of $22.39 billion, up 2.4% over the year to July 2004.

Once again, the biggest selling product was US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s hypolipidaemic drug, Lipitor (atorvastatin), which raked in $11.09 billion, but with a reduced growth at 10.8%. French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis’ antiplatelet drug, Plavix (clopidogrel), which is currently ranked fourth in terms of sales, held on to its position as the fastest growing drug with turnover jumping 22%.

There was only one shift in the top five companies from June’s report, as Merck & Co and Sanofi-Aventis exchanged their fourth and fifth positions. For the year to July 2005, the top firms now rank as follows: Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis and Merck & Co.