Does $1B really make a blockbuster anymore?

When is a blockbuster not a blockbuster? When its sales are adjusted for inflation--or for share of the global pharma market. That $1 billion blockbuster threshold might have been a lofty goal in 1987, but in today's dollars, the bar would stand at $1.75 billion, an IMS Health consultant postulates in an article for PharmaPhorum.

The bar is even higher when you compare market share, then and now. In 1987, $1 billion in global sales amounted to 0.74% of the value of the worldwide market. To hit that percentage in 2011, in a much larger worldwide market, a drug would have to sell at least $6.3 billions worth.

By those lights, the number of drugs that qualify as blockbusters is smaller--or way, way smaller--than it is under $1 billion benchmark. The traditional definition qualifies 116 drugs as blockbusters, according to 2011 sales, the PharmaPhorum piece points out. Change the qualifying number to $1.75 billion, and only 55 drugs qualify.

And if you look at the drug universe by that 1987 market-share metric, only 9 drugs make the grade. Pfizer's ($PFE) Lipitor; Sanofi ($SNY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Plavix; GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Seretide; AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Nexium, Seroquel and Crestor; Pfizer and Amgen's ($AMGN) Enbrel; Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Remicade; and Abbott ($ABT) Laboratories' Humira. And now, three of those drugs are off patent.

Why change the definition? PharmaPhorum's piece argues that the term "blockbuster" once applied to an elite group of "exceptional" products. Redefining the blockbuster, however that's done, might help pharma understand which drugs are truly exceptional in today's marketplace. Let us know what you think.

- read the PharmaPhorum piece

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