- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

Generic drugs will make a significant dent in the sales growth of prescription medicines next year, lowering the cost to treat certain illnesses, according to a report released yesterday.

Sales of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. will drop next year to their slowest pace in more than 40 years, IMS, a Connecticut pharmaceutical research company, stated in its annual global report on pharmaceuticals. U.S. sales of branded and generic prescription drugs will grow between 4 percent and 5 percent next year, a slowdown from a rate of between 5 percent and 6 percent this year and the slowest rate since 1963.

Because so many generics are coming to market, the cost of treating patients for high cholesterol, depression, osteoporosis and other maladies is falling sharply, IMS reports. The group expects 29 generic drugs to be introduced next year, helping drive global sales growth in generic drugs up 15 percent to $70 billion.

Already, Americans have seen the cost of treating conditions with brand drugs Zocor and Zoloft fall as much as 40 percent this year.

“These treatment cost declines are expected to continue through next year,” said Murray Aitken, senior vice president of Healthcare Insight at IMS.

Mr. Aitken noted that generic competition for Merck & Co.’s osteoporosis drug Fosamax and Wyeth’s acid-reflux drug Protonix will likely result in 10 percent to 25 percent reductions in treatment costs next year.

U.S. patents for Johnson & Johnson’s schizophrenia treatment Risperdal are also likely to expire.

IMS forecasts that about two-thirds of prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. next year will be generics, up from 50 percent five years ago.

The world’s sixth-largest drug maker, AstraZeneca PLC, yesterday reported its third-quarter net income fell 15 percent, partly because of a generic-drug challenge to its blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor. Cobalt Pharmaceuticals of Ontario, Canada, recently submitted a new drug application to market a generic alternative to Crestor.

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