Big Pharma Sees 8% Boost in Prescription Sales

By Dirk Hanson 05/25/11

In 2010, OxyContin became a $3 billion business, and total Vicodin prescriptions rose to 130 million in the U.S. alone.

Top 50 firms = $593 billion
Photo via pharmexec

Gather round, drug aficiondos, for the 12th Annual Pharm Exec 50 from Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine. To nobody’s great surprise, Vicodin retains its title as the top U.S. pharma product in terms of total numbers of prescriptions. Physicians wrote more than 130 million prescriptions for the drug last year, up slightly from 2009. But for making a profit, Oxycontin beats Vicodin, no contest. Oxycontin sales were up a healthy 7% compared to calendar year 2009, becoming a $3 billion business for the first time. As a class, narcotic analgesics like Oxy accounted for a total of 244 million prescriptions, only a slight increase over the year-ago period. The biggest jump—about 15%—came from prescriptions for beta blockers. Tranquilizers like Valium were up a healthy 4.4%, however.

2010 was the year that the top drug company—Pfizer—broke the $50 billion mark in annual sales of prescription drugs. And the top 20 drug makers accounted for a staggering $483 billion in sales last year. Pfizer, the drug leader after its acquisition of Wyeth, had better celebrate while it can, as its ten billion dollar baby, the #1 selling Lipitor, goes off patent at the end of this year. Overall, according to PharmExec, the top 50 drug companies “accounted for $593.4 billion in human prescription sales in 2010. That represents an increase of nearly 8 percent from 2009, when the total was $550.5 billion.” So it seems safe to say that Big Pharma is weathering the economic storm of the past few years very well, thank you.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
dirk hanson.jpg

Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]