Global drug sales seen nearing $890 bln in 2011

* Global sales expected to increase 5-7 pct in 2011

* China seen growing 25-27 percent to more $50 bln

* Growth in emerging markets seen at 15-17 pct in 2011

NEW YORK, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Global pharmaceutical sales are expected to increase by 5 to 7 percent to as much as $890 billion in 2011, while the China market is seen growing at a torrid pace, according to an annual forecast by IMS Health.

The projected global growth rate is a potential improvement over the 4 to 5 percent pace seen this year, but new generic competition for widely used branded medicines and cost controls in Europe are likely to keep growth somewhat in check, according to the IMS Market Prognosis.

“While the overall market will appear to rebound somewhat in 2011, the underlying constraints to growth in developed markets are stronger than ever,” said Murray Aitken, senior vice president for IMS Health, which tracks global prescription drug sales for the industry.

“This is still a challenging market, especially in the developed parts of the world,” Aitken added.

The growth rate in emerging markets will far outpace developed countries, IMS said, with China forecast to grow 25 to 27 percent to more than $50 billion next year, making it the world’s third-largest pharmaceutical market.

Virtually all major drugmakers have targeted China as a critical area for their own growth.

The United States remains by far the world’s largest market, with sales forecast to reach $320 billion to $330 billion in 2011. But that represents growth of just 3 to 5 percent.

The top five European markets of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Britain will collectively grow at an even more anemic pace of 1 to 3 percent to $135 billion to $145 billion, as government pricing pressures limit growth.

Japan, the world’s No. 2 market, is seen expanding at a healthier 5 to 7 percent rate to $96 billion to $100 billion with a new round of price cuts there not scheduled until 2012, IMS said.

But that pales compared with a growth rate of 15 to 17 percent seen for 17 emerging markets that are expected to reach total sales of $170 billion to $180 billion in 2011.

Several of the nations included in the emerging markets are benefiting from greater government spending on healthcare and broader public and private healthcare funding, which is driving greater demand and access to medicines, IMS said.

The 17 emerging nations cited by IMS include large markets, such as China, Brazil, Russia and India at the top, and much smaller markets such as Romania, Pakistan and Vietnam at the bottom.

2011 will mark the end of an era as generic competition is likely to begin late in the year for some of the world's biggest-selling medicines, including the current top two: Pfizer Inc's PFE.N cholesterol fighter Lipitor with $11 billion in annual worldwide sales and the $9 billion a year blood clot preventer Plavix, sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co BMY.N and Sanofi-Aventis SASY.PA.

Also likely facing generic competition next year is Eli Lilly and Co's LLY.N schizophrenia drug Zyprexa and Johnson & Johnson's JNJ.N antibiotic Levaquin. The four medicines accounted for more than 93 million prescriptions dispensed in the United States alone in the past 12 months, IMS said.

The significant sales decline from generic competition to those brands however will not be felt until 2012 and beyond.

Somewhat offsetting the patent expirations next year will be promising new treatments expected for stroke prevention, advanced melanoma, hepatitis C and breast cancer, IMS said.

IMS figures about five products with eventual annual sales exceeding $1 billion will be approved and launched in 2011. Among the most likely future blockbuster candidates are AstraZeneca's AZN.L blood clot preventer Brilinta, a different type of clot preventer developed by Pfizer and Bristol-Myers called apixaban and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc's VRTX.O hepatitis C treatment telaprevir, Aitken said.

“In 2011 we will see the loss of exclusivity for some iconic brands and a promising new wave of innovation,” Aitken said. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot, editing by Matthew Lewis)