The Covid-19 pandemic can't hold down global drug spending, IQVIA reports, with cash expected to keep flowing
Despite its long-reaching effects in global markets, the Covid-19 pandemic is not expected to broadly impact global sales on medicines in the near-term future, according to a new report from IQVIA.
Over the next five or so years, through 2025, global spending will grow at an estimated 3% to 6% rate annually and reach $1.6 trillion in sales. Notably, that figure does not include an additional $157 billion expected to be spent on Covid-19 vaccines, which will mostly come from now through the end of 2022.
Those growth rates are more or less in line with the previous five-year period, per report author Michael Kleinrock, who serves as lead research director at the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. Though sales were sharply affected at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, projections have essentially returned to their pre-pandemic levels.
“Without the vaccine spending, outside that, it’s only really moved [the compound annual growth rate] by about one-tenth,” Kleinrock told Endpoints News. “The reason was the shark bite taken out of early 2020, then the normal trend resumes fairly close to that.”
For the world’s largest market in the US, where medicines spending sat at 4.2% annual growth from 2016 to 2020, IQVIA is predicting a range of 2% to 5% for the next five years. Other developed nations will also see similarly flat growth rates, IQVIA predicts, with about 1.5% to 4.5% growth annually on average after clocking in at 3.8% in the previous five years.
It’s a bit of a different story for emerging pharma markets — or as IQVIA refers to them, “pharmerging” markets — where annual spending is expected to increase slightly. This group is largely headed by efforts in China, where estimated spending will increase by 4.5% to 7.5% each year, compared to 4.9% in the earlier period.
These figures, Kleinrock said, represent the invoice levels and don’t include the rebates and other discounts some countries might negotiate with pharma companies. Typically, drug spending makes up about 1% to 2% of any country’s GDP, he added.
Spending on the Covid-19 shots is notable, with Kleinrock saying the prices represent “tremendous value.” He compared the dollar figure to that of the wave of new hepatitis C drugs about seven years ago, noting that there was about $130 billion spent on a much smaller patient population.
Among the biggest growth areas IQVIA predicts are oncology and immunology which, despite biosimilar pressure, are continuing to see innovation in narrowing and more precise patient populations. There’s also a lot of excitement in neurology, though Kleinrock is more cautious here given the sheer amount of drug failures in the past 25 years.
Much of IQVIA’s estimates rely on a model of mass global vaccinations, where their best-case scenario sees the world reaching herd immunity by the end of 2022. That would involve inoculating 5.5 billion people, a tall task by any standard. But Kleinrock is optimistic that this total could be reached, or at the very least something close to it.
The “straight-line” projection, or the estimate if everything held at the same pace it currently does, for vaccinations, will see 2 billion people reaching immunity by the end of 2021. IQVIA’s base scenario projects the total to be about 500 million higher than that, particularly if the US vaccination campaign continues at its pace and then shares its excess supply with other countries.
There is potential for continued vaccine hesitancy and supply disruptions, which would prevent Covid-19 from morphing into something that can be kept in an endemic state, Kleinrock said. But on the whole, he feels confident in the IQVIA model, saying it’s “very likely” the base case scenario will be realized.