The expiry of patents on profitable heart medicines is soon going to erode one of the main sources of drug company profits, and risky bets on new medicines to replace them may not make up for the lost sales.
High-octane salesmanship was still on show at giant trade stands during this week's European Society of Cardiology congress - the world's biggest heart meeting with 28,000 participants - but the razzmatazz hides a business in trouble.
Patent expiries mean annual sales of 15 different categories of heart drugs are set to fall by more than a quarter by 2017, from $83 billion in 2011 to $60 billion, according to consensus analyst forecasts compiled by Thomson Reuters Pharma.
This year will see the biggest single hit, after the loss of patent protection on Pfizer's record-selling cholesterol pill Lipitor and Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb's blood thinner Plavix.
Those two medicines were the biggest sellers in any disease area last year, with combined global turnover of $20 billion - a figure likely to be halved in 2012.
Big Pharma hopes a new generation of drugs can replace them, yet recent product launches have been sluggish and new heart medicines still in tests represent some of the biggest gambles ever made in the industry's molecular casino.
Leading cardiologists, who follow drug development closely, warn that the hurdle for pricey new heart medicines is getting ever higher as economic pressures hit health budgets worldwide. . .View Full Article