Will the recent wave of megamergers and a slow revival of biotech financing be enough to counter a looming storm surge of
patent expirations? US health reform is the next big game-changer, as companies seek a balance between earning profits and
a restive new breed of payers and the ever-expectant patient
The Pharm Exec 50 ranks the world's largest pharmaceutical companies by global sales of prescription drugs—a key indicator of market change.
After last year's storm of activity, the 50 set a more placid pace, as major players worked on integrating blockbuster mergers
and licked their wounds after the latest round of Phase III failures. Late-phase problems are nothing new, and drug candidates
can come back from them, but there was something particularly heartbreaking about the recent crop of dead ends, given the
huge unmet medical need associated with these therapies: Pfizer's Dimebon and Lilly's Semagacestat for Alzheimer's, Merck's
vicriviroc for HIV, and Roche's ocrelizumab for rheumatoid arthritis, to name just a few.
Change was most visible on the macro level. The list of the top 10 companies was shaken up a bit, with Novartis passing Sanofi-Aventis
to move into second place, and Merck jumping from seventh to fourth. It was also the first year the top company crossed the
$50 billion mark in sales of prescription drugs—as Pfizer, fueled by its acquisition of Wyeth, grew from $45.4 billion in
Rx sales to $58.5 billion. Meanwhile, consolidation in the ranks continues to place a premium on size and scale: This was
the first year that it took $2 billion in Rx revenues to join the 50. As recently as 10 years ago, you could make the list
with revenues of only $500 million.
Revenue Distribution of Top 50
Overall, the 50 accounted for $593.4 billion in human prescription drug sales in 2010. That represents an increase of nearly
8 percent from 2009, when the total was $550.5 billion. But among the top 10, there was slightly better growth. This year's
group grew its Rx revenues from $319.4 billion in fiscal 2009 to $352.5 last year—an increase of over 10 percent.