Specialty drugs — often described as “prescription drugs that are difficult to manufacture and require special handling or administration, have limited distribution, target a narrow group of chronic diseases, are costly, and require ongoing clinical support — will drive nearly all of the pharmaceutical industry’s market growth from 2015–2020.

Drug Channels projects the total pharmaceutical industry to exceed $483 billion in 2020, with specialty pharmaceuticals making up 44% of the revenue. If these projections hold true, specialty drugs will have increased their revenues by over 5X from 2010–2020, growing from just 15% of the market to nearly half in that decade.

Growth of traditional drugs, on the other hand, will remain relatively stagnant. Traditional pharmaceutical revenues are projected to grow by just $4 billion from 2015–2020 and make up only 56% of the pharmaceutical market in 2020, down from 73% in 2015.

For an overview of the projections, see Drug Channels’ graphic below:

Specialty Pharmaceutical Stats

  • 2010: The first year the FDA granted more approvals for specialty drugs than traditional.
  • 2014: Spending on specialty drugs grew by over 30%, but just 1% of prescriptions were written for specialty drugs.
  • 2015: About 50% of FDA-approved drugs were considered specialty.
  • Today: There are reported to be more than 900 specialty drugs currently in development.

Prescient Healthcare Group. Specialty Pharmaceuticals: The shifting focus of care and the players driving change. 2016.
Diplomat Clinical Services. Specialty Drug Approvals | 2015 Highlights + 2016 Projections . 2015.

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