Report cites pricing pressure for cut in global drug sales forecast

Global sales of pharmaceuticals are projected to reach $1.06 trillion in 2022, down from the $1.12 trillion analysts forecast for the same period last year, according to a report released Tuesday by Evaluate. "Continued political and public scrutiny over pricing of both the industry's new and old drugs is not going to go away and we are starting to feel the impact now," remarked Antonio Iervolino, head of forecasting at Evaluate, which based its figures on consensus forecasts from analysts covering the pharmaceutical sector.

Iervolino noted that "market access is becoming harder, as seen by the disappointing sales" of drugs such as Amgen's Repatha (evolocumab), Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' Praluent (alirocumab) and GlaxoSmithKline's Nucala (mepolizumab). Further, he suggested "the increasing cost of taking a novel therapy to market, now at $4 billion over the last 10 years, puts additional pressure on the productivity of the industry and its longer term sustainability." 

However, the report said some of the drug industry's products, including cancer immunotherapies such as Merck & Co.'s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab), will help the sector reach its expected trillion-dollar sales target. Evaluate also predicted that "even with mounting questions around their pricing," orphan drugs will account for 32 percent of the sales increase in 2022, while a potential second patent cliff could cut pharmaceutical revenues in the period from 2016 to 2022 by $194 billion.

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The report comes after several pharmaceutical companies have promised to limit price increases on their products amid controversy over high drug costs. Last year, Allergan pledged to limit price hikes on branded medicines to the single-digit range, while AbbVie and Novo Nordisk have made similar promises. Meanwhile, Sanofi recently announced it would limit price increases on prescription products in the US to 5.4 percent this year, keeping the increases at or below the country's health expenditures growth projection. 

US President Donald Trump, who has criticised drugmakers over pricing and urged them to find ways of lowering costs, is expected to release an executive order in the coming weeks focused on drug pricing. Additionally, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently unveiled proposals aimed at expanding the agency's ability to influence drug pricing. 

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