Drug sales through retail pharmacies in 13 key markets rose 6% in the year to the end of June 2005, closing at $360 billion dollars, according to data from IMS Health’s Retail Monitor.

Pharmaceutical sales in the top five European markets (Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain) maintained a 4% constant exchange growth, ending the period at $90 billion, while North America posted a 6% hike to $191 billion in the 12-month period, lifted by an 11% leap in the cardiovascular sector. All these figures were in line with earlier IMS Health surveys.

Meanwhile, Japan’s growth was cut to 3% - with sales of $60 billion – as the impact of government-mandated price cuts and other health reforms continued to take their toll on the sector. The three Latin American Markets covered by IMS in the Retail Monitor survey (Brazil, Argentina and Mexico) put in a 16% increase to $14.6 billion in the reporting period, a slightly higher growth rate than the last IMS Health survey.

The single largest therapeutic subcategory in dollar sales continued to be the hypolipidemia class, with sales of $27.5 billion, up 9.4% but a slight decrease from the last Retail Monitor survey. The next largest group was the anti-ulcerants class, up 2.1% to $22.4 billion.

And as expected, Pfizer’s hypolipidemic drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) remained the best-selling drug, with retail sales of $11.1 billion, albeit with a reduced growth of 11.7%. The fourth-ranked product - Sanofi-Aventis’ antiplatelet drug Plavix (clopidogrel) - still boasts the top growth rate in the Industry, at 23.3%.

There was a change to the top five companies compared to the last survey, however, with Novartis re-entering the list, dislodging AstraZeneca. The top firms now rank as follows: Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Merck & Co and Sanofi-Aventis.