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Blockbuster drugs are generally drugs in a new class of medication that are clinically effective in a common indication or that provide a safer and more effective alternative to previous similar drugs. They drive the profits as well as research & development investment of the pharmaceutical industry. Companies want "first in class" or "best in class" drugs, rather than "me-to" drugs. The present economic definition of blockbuster drugs is those that make more than US $1 billion/annum in sales. This means that good marketing can make such status, which is a bit of a problem, particularly where marketing now involves sponsoring clinical trials designed with marketing potential in mind. For an example of the issues around drug development and marketing see sitagliptin/Development and marketing. Some classical examples of block buster drugs are:

The current situation is heavily modified by patent, marketing and competition issues and it can be hard to predict when a drug will have its highest income. However as this table shows the loss of patent protection (which has/is happening for clopidogrel and atorvastatin during 2009/2010) might be expected to have significant effects both on the manufacturer and total drug spend in a health system. There is increasing evidence that the biologics which were thought to be more resistant to imitation due to their complexity, will follow with biosimilars the same income pathway with loss of patent protection.

UK NHS sales 2008 (Source National Prescribing Centre)
Blockbuster Drug Sales
Atorvastatin £333,709,600
Etanercept £145,138,600
Clopidogrel £142,711,300
Olanzapine £108,758,400
Adalimumab £98,175,600
Trastuzumab £86,653,600
Infliximab £77,131,000
Quetiapine £68,009,600
Rituximab £67,736,200
Insulin glargine £67,679,900
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