Formulary Files

Payers may cloud pharma's sunny outlook

The good times for pharmaceutical manufacturers are expected to roll right into 2020, according to a forecast published in May by Evaluate Pharma, a life science market intelligence company in Boston. Unless, of course, insurance companies and governments in the United States, Europe, and Japan say no más to what they see as overpriced medications.

The latter possibility is one of the few clouds on what the company presents as sunny days ahead for drugmakers. Prescription drug sales will grow at an average of nearly 5% a year, reaching $987 billion by 2020, says EvaluatePharma, which bases its forecast on outlooks for the leading 500 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Worldwide total prescription drug sales (2014–2020)

This prediction is less than the $1 trillion by 2020 that EvaluatePharma read in the tea leaves last year. The difference can largely be explained by the depreciation of the euro against the dollar, says the company.

According to EvaluatePharma, pharma is humming along because sustained R&D productivity is moving in the right direction and the worst of the patent cliff may be behind it.

At one time, loss of patent protection was thought to put $197 billion in sales in jeopardy between now and 2020, “but the market currently predicts only $99 billion of this will materialize,” says the report.

Worldwide sales at risk from patent expiration (2014–2020)

Source: EvaluatePharma, “World Preview 2015, Outlook to 2020,” June 2015

Why the revision? Because previous analyses had predicted that biosimilars would have a bigger effect on sales.

Drugmakers may be able to produce real cures for previously incurable diseases, but this will come at a price in the midst of reluctance of both private and government payers to fund expensive drug treatments.

The study’s authors wonder if “we are seeing the end of pricing freedom in the U.S.”

As the pretty woman sang: Que será, será.

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