The pharmaceutical industry, an essential pillar of global healthcare, has experienced significant growth over the past two decades, amassing global revenues of $1.48 trillion. The biggest pharma companies’ role in fueling medical progress through research, development, and introduction of novel medications cannot be overstated. The industry is a driver of health improvements and a vital component of the world’s economy.
The landscape was considerably reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing shifts in supply and demand. Despite these challenges, the industry saw remarkable growth in 2022, with key players realizing substantial profits from blockbuster drugs.
This resilience indicates the sector’s enduring strength and potential, even amid the rise of biosimilars and changing global health dynamics.
A deep dive into the biggest pharma companies by revenue
With a rich history extending over 170 years, Pfizer remains a dominant figure in the pharmaceutical industry. Its origin dates back to the entrepreneurial efforts of Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart in New York. Today, Pfizer’s portfolio spans across 150 diverse medicines and vaccines, ranging from anti-infectives to rare diseases. Their most notable recent contribution has been the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The global pandemic in 2020 catalyzed a surge in Pfizer’s growth, propelling it to topple Johnson & Johnson from the top spot for the first time in a decade. Pfizer posted record-breaking profits of $100.33 billion in 2022.
Their Covid-19 vaccine generated a substantial $36.8 billion of the revenue, with the antiviral Covid-19 medicine ‘Paxlovid’ contributing another $18.9 billion. However, the sustainability of this financial surge beyond the pandemic era remains to be seen.
2. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson, a household name in health-related goods, is arguably the world’s largest and most recognized producer in the field. Their expansive product line includes pharmaceuticals, consumer health products, and medical devices, featuring familiar brands like Band-Aids, Johnson’s Baby, Aveeno, and Neutrogena.
Johnson & Johnson ceded the top position in 2022 for the first time in a decade, despite their wide-reaching influence with goods in 250 subsidiaries worldwide. Founded in 1886 in New Jersey, the global healthcare conglomerate’s consistently high profits are testament to its expansive network.
About half of their sales come from their pharmaceutical division, Janssen, which generated a robust $52.56 billion last year. Profits were primarily driven by their cancer drugs Darzalex and Erleada, immunology medication Stelara, and psoriasis treatment Tremfya, among others.
3. Merck & Co.
Merck & Co., initially established as an American affiliate of the Merck Group in 1891, has since evolved into an independent pharmaceutical powerhouse. The company’s portfolio includes medicines, vaccines, biological therapies, and animal health products. With over 130 years of vaccination expertise, Merck & Co. distributed 203 million vaccine doses globally in 2022.
Keytruda, their groundbreaking cancer therapy, accounted for a remarkable $20.9 billion of their 2022 revenue. Additionally, the oral antiviral Covid-19 medication, Lagevrio, contributed significantly with earnings of $5.68 billion. However, recent queries surrounding Lagevrio’s effectiveness in the US and the EU could pose potential challenges to the company’s future earnings.
AbbVie, a relatively recent entrant in the pharma industry, launched in 2013 as a biopharmaceutical spinoff from healthcare company Abbott. Since then, the company has committed around $50 billion to research to discover, develop, and deliver new medicines.
Their immunology drug Humira has been a significant driver of the US-based company’s success, contributing $21.24 billion to its total revenue of $58.05 billion in 2022. However, with rising competition from biosimilar products, particularly as Humira loses its US exclusivity, the company is increasing its focus on other immunology drugs, such as Skyrizi and Rinvoq.
The company’s other leading product, Imbruvica, a hematology and oncology treatment, has seen a dip in profits since 2021.
Novartis, a Switzerland-based pharmaceutical behemoth, was formed in 1996 from a merger between Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, although its medicinal roots go back much further. The company consists of two main divisions: Innovative Medicines, which commercializes patented drugs, and Sandoz, its generic pharmaceuticals arm.
In 2022, Novartis adopted a US-first approach, aiming to be a top-five drug maker in the US by 2027. Their top-selling drug, the inflammatory disease therapy Consentyx, raked in $4.8 billion in 2022.
6. Bristol Myers Squibb
Based in New York, Bristol Myers Squibb manufactures prescription pharmaceuticals and biologics for a variety of diseases.
Unfortunately, in 2022 the company experienced a 0.5% drop in sales, possibly due to the loss of exclusivity for their multiple myeloma drug, Revlimid. However, their anticoagulant Eliquis still generated a substantial $11.8 billion.
Sanofi, the French biopharma giant, made history as the first supplier of the injectable polio vaccine on a global scale. Today, their vaccines shield around half a billion people across the globe from various diseases. The corporation has a diverse product range that extends to numerous medical fields, such as cardiovascular health, neurological disorders, diabetes management, and oncology.
In 2022, Sanofi observed a substantial 7% growth in profit. A pivotal factor in this financial uptick was their dermatitis medication, Dupixent, which raked in an impressive €8.3 billion. This represented almost a 44% surge from the previous year’s earnings. The upward trajectory looks set to continue, with the company forecasting its profits to surpass the €10 billion mark this year.
AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish biopharma company, gained widespread recognition during the Covid-19 pandemic due to its partnership with Oxford University in developing a vaccine. Their subsidiary, Alexion, contributed $7.1 billion to the company’s revenue in 2022, primarily due to their blockbuster drugs Soliris and Ultomiris.
The biggest pharma companies are critical to delivering medication that saves lives
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most vital sectors in terms of financial turnover and its fundamental role in improving global health. The Biggest pharma companies stand at the forefront, delivering critical medicines and therapies that change and save lives. The increasing demand for healthcare services and the constant need for new and effective medications guarantee these pharma giants’ continued relevance and growth.
2022 was indeed a transformative year in the world of pharma. The trend of focusing on innovative drugs, the race for rare disease treatments, the challenge of biosimilars, and the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis have shaped the industry’s landscape.
It will be intriguing to see how the biggest pharma companies navigate these challenges and opportunities in the coming years. Regardless of the hurdles, their dedication to improving global health is unwavering.