Clinical and Research News
2005 Top Sellers
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 11 page 23-23

According to the IMS National Sales Perspectives, antidepressants continued to be big business in the United States in 2005.

Last year, antidepressants made the IMS Health list of the "Leading 20 Therapeutic Classes by U.S. Sales." SSRIs, for the fifth year in a row, closed the year in sixth place, with $6.8 billion in sales. SNRIs came in 16th, with $3.4 billion in sales. All totaled, sales of all antidepressants marketed in the U.S. funneled $12.5 billion into the coffers of pharmaceutical companies.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry's trade group and lobbying arm, says that today's high drug prices fund tomorrow's research and development. While many argue that high prices simply translate into exorbitant profit margins, the high prices are at least in part directly related to the need to develop new medicines.

Nearly 80 percent of last year's sales were rung up for the top five branded antidepressants. Pfizer's Zoloft (sertraline) was again the top seller, at $3.1 billion. Expiration of Pfizer's patents on Zoloft will allow generic substitutes on the market as early as next month. To analysts' surprise, the company has no clear successor.

Wyeth's Effexor XR (venlafaxine extended release) came in second, with sales of $2.6 billion. Its patents don't expire until June 2010, but Wyeth is reportedly hard at work on a replacement.

Third place went to Forest Labs' Lexapro (escitalopram) with $2.1 billion in sales. Lexapro was designed as a replacement for Celexa (citalopram) when the older drug's patents expired. Forest and development partner, Lundbeck, announced earlier this year they were planning to conduct clinical trials of a new antidepressant. Good timing: Lexapro loses patent protection in March 2012.

GlaxoSmithKline's Wellbutrin XL (bupropion extended release) came in fourth, with sales of $1.5 billion. While the drug's patents don't expire until 2018, long-running litigation challenging those patents make generic versions likely by the end of 2007. GSK is pursuing several replacements.

In fifth place last year was the market's "youngest" antidepressant: Eli Lilly's Cymbalta (duloxetine), with $667 million in sales. With Cymbalta's patents set to expire in June 2008, Lilly is working on at least two new antidepressants.

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