Respiratory drug sales climb as asthma, COPD cases rise

The global respiratory drug market is projected to exceed sales of $44 billion by 2010, according to market research firm Kalorama Information.

As the incidence of lung and breathing-related illnesses climb around the world, drug sales in the segment have continued to rise as well. Kalorama researchers report that sales have increased at the rate of 11 percent annually, from $19 billion in 2000 to $32 billion in 2005.

Asthma, a leading respiratory disease, was diagnosed in 19.8 million people in the United States in 2003, with 11 million experiencing an asthma attack in the previous year, according to the most current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. In 2002, asthma accounted for 12.7 million doctor visits, 1.2 million hospital outpatient visits, 1.9 million emergency room visits and 484,000 hospitalizations.

An illness that affects the lungs, asthma is the most common long-term disease of children. Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma always is present, but a patient will suffer attacks only when the lungs are stimulated. Triggers include: tobacco smoke, dust mites, air pollution, cockroaches and their droppings, furry pets and mold. Also, physical exertion, high emotional states or extreme temperatures can lead to an attack.

Treatments fall into two categories: long-term control drugs and quick-relief drugs, such as inhalers. Asthma cannot be cured.

Meanwhile, another respiratory disease that often is confused with asthma is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and that afflicts another 20 million Americans.

Top-ranked treatments for asthma and COPD posted strong global sales results last year. Advair grew 11.7 percent to $6 billion, Singulair climbed 20 percent to $3.6 billion, Zyrtec rose 12 percent to $2.5 billion, Spiriva shot up 48.5 percent to $1.6 billion, Pulmicort rose 11.2 percent to $1.3 billion and Flixotide increased 4.5 percent to $1.2 billion, according to market research firm Wood Mackenzie.