Following the global economic recession and a slower-than-anticipated recovery, cost-containment measures are shifting the decision-making focus of North America’s pharmaceutical market from the prescriber to the payer, says research and consulting firm GlobalData.

The company’s latest report* states that the global pharmaceutical industry is currently being confronted with intensified obstacles along the path to new product commercialization, with pricing and reimbursement hurdles particularly challenging for the North American market.

According to Adam Dion, MS, GlobalData’s Healthcare Industry Analyst, as overall healthcare spending has slowed during the recession, new pharmaceutical products and medical technologies have received increased attention regarding their potential cost savings.

Dion says, “While the US population is largely covered through private health insurance, public sector coverage now includes third-party administrators, dispensers, and others, further complicating the situation.

“At the other end of the spectrum is Canada, where the single-payer system has meant sweeping cost-containment measures and a stricter pricing and reimbursement policy, which is a challenge for pharmaceutical companies.”

The analyst adds that as market access regulations are becoming more stringent, product commercialization strategies will be helped by mapping a successful launch sequence of countries that have not only good domestic drug demand, but also the right pricing and reimbursement conditions.

However, while there have been continued efforts to lower spending on prescription drugs, on which the US spends approximately one tenth of its healthcare budget, the number of products with an annual cost totaling at least $100,000 has increased markedly over the past five years.

Dion continues: “The rise in premium-priced drugs has been most notable in the oncology and infectious diseases segments, particularly Amgen’s leukemia drug Blincyto, and Gilead’s hepatitis C virus treatments Sovaldi and Harvoni.

“Despite discounts provided by manufacturers, the demand for innovative drug treatments in areas with high unmet need means that the continued influx of such therapies is likely to impact costs heavily for both insurers and patients,” the analyst concludes.