Beware: Patent losses to climb back to $56B by 2015

For years we've been anticipating 2012 as the steepest patent cliff, the year when the world's biggest drugs would be slammed with generic competition. No doubt about it, $67 billion in drug sales at risk from patent expirations is a whopping big figure. But as EvaluatePharma reminds us in its latest World Preview report, released at this week's BIO conference, 2012 is far from the end of pharma's patent woes.

Next year provides something of a respite, with only $29 billion's worth of drugs losing exclusivity. But that amount ratchets up to $40 billion in 2014 and $56 billion in 2015 before dropping back to $31 billion--2010 levels--in 2016. If 9% of the pharma market's sales would be vulnerable to generic erosion this year, then 2015 isn't far behind at 7%.

That's not to say that branded drug sales won't grow during that time period. Worldwide, sales are expected to take a drop this year, to $709 billion from $716 billion, and then climb back up to $732 billion in 2013. By 2015, EvaluatePharma expects branded sales to reach $793 billion. Along the way, overall prescription drug sales will grow even more, but generics will take a bigger bite out of the total every year. Last year, generics accounted for 9.1% of global drug sales; by 2018, that share will be 10.9%, or $96 billion.

The therapeutic areas driving that growth aren't a surprise. Oncology leads the way by far with a $104 billion market by 2018, and Roche ($RHHBY) leads the cancer-drug pack with an estimated $27.5 billion in oncology sales by 2018. Then there's diabetes, a market growing fast around the world; it's expected to grow to $58 billion-plus over the same period. Novo Nordisk ($NVO) is expected to lead that field with $16 billion, with Merck ($MRK) ($9.5 billion) and Sanofi ($SNY) ($8 billion) its closest followers. In third place? Anti-inflammatories such as Abbott Laboratories' ($ABT) Humira, Pfizer's ($PFE) Enbrel and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Remicade. Those three companies will top that $45 billion market with $7.3 billion, $6.9 billion and $5.4 billion, respectively.

- read the report from EvaluatePharma