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Top 7 Pharmaceutical Companies in the World

The Pharmaceutical Executive — an independent, full-service medical media company — has published its annual listing of top global pharmaceutical companies in 2020. The list includes 50 major biopharma players and is based on prescription pharmaceutical sales. This year, as everyone’s attention is naturally focused on the pandemic and the global crisis it causes, the enormous resources needed to fight such threats become apparent. In this regard, we see as most appropriate to review the seven most successful pharmaceutical companies, many of which have made a significant contribution to developing drugs and fighting against lethal diseases. The capabilities of these companies make it possible to carry out major scientific developments in the pharmaceutical field and turn them into clinically proven drugs for widespread use.

Pharmaceutical Companies

1. Roche Pharmaceuticals

  • Rx sales: $48.2 billion
  • R&D spend: $10.3 billion

With an 8% increase in Rx sales the company has won the first position and replaced the previous leader — Pfizer. Roche was founded in 1896 in Basel, Switzerland. Presently it controls two large pharmaceutical companies, Genentech in the US and Chugai in Japan, and is working with over 150 partners worldwide. Oncology is one of the company’s most important fields — Roche is the world’s leading provider of cancer treatment. Other areas of research include immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology, and neuroscience. In 2019, the company’s most popular drugs were Avastin (a medicine for treating some forms of cancer), Rituxan (for treating cancer and some autoimmune diseases), and Herceptin (for breast and stomach cancer treatment). 

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has launched several diagnostic tools and is testing six different medicines to fight the disease. 

2. Novartis

  • Rx sales: $46 billion
  • R&D spend: $8.4 billion

In 2019, the Swiss company Novartis has shown a 6% rise in sales and moved up from the third position. Novartis was established in 1996 by merging two companies and has a rich history of drug development, tracing its roots about 250 years back. The company manufactures generic drugs, vaccines, animal medicines, diagnostics, contact lenses, and over-the-counter medicines. Cosentyx (for treating skin diseases), Gilenya (for multiple sclerosis), and Lucentis (for diabetic macular edema) were its top-selling drugs in 2019. Early in the year, Novartis acquired The Medicines Company and its experimental drug Inclisiran, a promising cholesterol-lowering treatment. The company has donated more than $40 million to projects worldwide, as well as more than 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in fighting the 2020 pandemic reported Trust pharmacy, which is engaged in researching the meds market.

3. Pfizer

  • Rx sales: $43.7 billion
  • R&D spend: $8 billion

Pfizer has lost two positions in the annual listing of top pharmaceutical companies. Its sales decreased by 3.5% partly because its third most popular drug, Lyrica, has generated less income due to the emergence of cheaper generic competitors. Sales of the popular Viagra drug are also sinking  studies show that many inexpensive generics are appearing on the market.  

Pfizer is an American company founded in 1849. It has held the leading position in the list of top pharmaceutical companies for the past four years. The company is anticipating further growth: sales of Pfizer’s second most popular drug  Ibrancefor breast cancer treatment  have increased by 20%. Besides, the company is developing several other successful brands and preparing to launch new drugs on the market. 

Pfizer has been involved in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic by testing potential vaccines and planning to provide hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to the US and Europe. 

4. Merck & Co.

  • Rx sales: $40.9 billion
  • R&D spend: $8.7 billion

This American multinational company with headquarters in New Jersey was founded in 1891. Merck`s sales were up nearly 10% over last year. It main areas of focus include oncology, vaccines, infectious diseases, and cardio-metabolic disorders. The company’s top-selling drug Keytruda for cancer immunotherapy have seen a rise of 55%. Other successful medications include Gardasil (a human papillomavirus vaccine) and Januvia (diabetes mellitus type 2 treatment). At the beginning of September Merck started testing its coronavirus vaccine, which can be taken orally to lower the vaccination barrier. The company is also known for publishing medical reference books: their Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy is the world’s best-selling medical reference. 

5. Bristol Myers Squibb

  • Rx sales: $40.7 billion
  • R&D spend: $9.4 billion

Bristol Myers Squibb is an American company with headquarters in New York. It was founded in 1858 as Squibb and acquired its current name after merging with Bristol-Myers in 1989. Bristol Myers Squibb has made a huge leap from 11th to 5th place in our listing as it completed the acquisition of Celgene and its top-selling drug Revlimid, a treatment for multiple myeloma. Other company`s top-selling drugs include Eliquis (used to reduce the risk of stroke and blood clots in people with a heart rhythm disorder) and Odipo (a drug for cancer treatment). Bristol Myers Squibb develops and manufactures medicines for treating cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, infectious diseases, inflammatory disorders, and oncology.  

6. Johnson and Johnson

  • Rx sales: $40 billion
  • R&D spend: $8.8 billion

This American multinational corporation was founded in 1886. It includes nearly 250 subsidiary companies in 60 countries. Apart from pharmaceuticals, the company produces medical devices and consumer goods. Johnson and Johnson`s well-known brands include Tylenol, Band-Aid, Neutrogena, Acuvue, etc. The company`s main focus areas are immunology, oncology, neuroscience, and infectious diseases. Stelara, a psoriasis treatment, was Johnson and Johnson`s top-selling drug in 2019, followed by Remicade, a drug to treat several autoimmune diseases, and Darzalex, an anti-cancer medication. During the outbreak of coronavirus, the company was the first to announce the development of a vaccine. In September it has initiated the global phase 3 clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Johnson & Johnson anticipates the first batches of a vaccine to be available in early 2021. 

7. Sanofi

  • Rx sales: $34.9 billion
  • R&D spend: $6 billion

Sanofi is a French multinational company founded in 1973. The company develops and manufactures drugs primarily in the prescription sector, focusing on cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, oncology, and neurological disorders treatment. Sanofi`s top-selling drugs in 2019 included Lantus, the most prescribed long-acting insulin, Dupixent for allergic diseases, and Pentacel, a combination vaccine against several diseases. During the coronavirus pandemic, the company was studying existing medicines as potential treatments, as well as developing a new vaccine. In September, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have signed an advanced agreement to provide up to 300 million vaccine doses to the European Union.