Global statins market will fall apart

lipitor web The global market in statins, once the pharmaceutical industry’s lead blockbuster products, is predicted to decline by 40% in the next five years.

The forecast by GBI Research of a negative CAGR of 7.2% up to 2013 for the cholesterol-lowering drugs is based on prospects of generic erosion, weak pipelines and failing prescriber confidence.

The decline in the statins market shows that the shift of healthcare towards prevention and management of long-term conditions is not without pitfalls for the pharma industry.

Statins, which lower cholesterol levels by targeting an enzyme in the liver, have been hailed as ‘wonder drugs’ that could radically reduce the global incidence of cardiovascular events.

Routinely prescribed for ‘high-risk’ patients such as people with high blood pressure or diabetes, statins have also been linked to reduced risk of bowel cancer and reduced death rate from influenza.

However, their global market declined from $23.7 billion in 2004 to $20.5 billion in 2011 (a negative CAGR of 2.5%), due largely to patent expiry.

The report predicts a much steeper decline in the statins market over the next five years, for four reasons:

• Patent expiry – the generic share of the statins market is predicted to grow from 11% in 2011 to 34% in 2018.

• Austerity health budgets – spending on prevention is likely to be cut back.

• Weak product pipelines – the ‘me-too’ nature of most statins betrays a lack of potential for innovation.

• Increased use of alternative drugs.

Medical writer Ben Goldacre has argued that the marketing of statins in terms of relative risk reduction glossed over the low absolute risk reduction they offer, and left the products open to a backlash over side-effects.

Statins are associated with both symptomatic side-effects (including digestive disorders) and potential ones (including increased risk of type 2 diabetes).

As the overall statins market declines, the report says, individual products will struggle to gain or keep a place within it: “The global statins market has reached the competitive stage of its lifecycle, with many branded and generic drugs competing with each other on price.”