Big Pharma will get bigger, much bigger, over the next several years, with the companies vying to grow their sales in a range of established and emerging therapeutic areas, notably cancer and immunology.
Together, the top 10 drugmakers in 2024—as outlined in a recent report from EvaluatePharma—will hold 35% of the total biopharma market share, or more than $420 billion in sales that year.
Novartis is slated to lead the pack, trailed by Pfizer, Roche, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi in the top five. Among the top 10 drugmakers, EP predicts AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb will grow their sales the most over the upcoming years, at 7% annually and 6% on average per year, respectively.
Over the next several years, analysts expect the drugmakers to shuffle positions somewhat from last year’s sales rankings. AstraZeneca and BMS will each jump two spots, earning positions in the top 10. Novartis, J&J, Sanofi and GSK will each climb one spot, while analysts expect Pfizer to take one step from it’s world-leading 2017 prescription sales.
Taking the biggest step backward in the projections is Merck. Evaluate predicts the company will drop three positions from its 2017 sales ranking to 7th in 2024. The analysts believe the New Jersey drugmaker will haul in $38 billion in sales that year, up from $35.4 billion last year. Merck’s fall in the rankings comes despite the ascent of its star drug Keytruda. Evaluate predicts the drug’s sales will grow 19% annually through 2024, from $3.8 billion in 2017 to $12.7 billion in 2024. The drug will only trail AbbVie’s Humira in 2024 sales, according to the projections.
Humira, which posted $18.9 billion in sales globally last year, will fall slightly to $15.2 billion in 2024. Before it fades, analysts believe the megablockbuster can reach $21 billion in peak sales. The company has inked a slate of patent settlements with would-be biosim entrants in the U.S. to protect its cash cow for several more years.
Several top drugmakers are heavily invested in oncology. In all, cancer meds make up half of the top 10 drugs by 2024 sales, according to the analysis. Other drugs topping sales charts for 2024 include Bristol’s anticoagulant Eliquis, Sanofi’s new eczema launch Dupixent, Regeneron and Bayer’s eye med Eylea and J&J’s immunology med Stelara.
Here are the top drugmakers ranked by projected sales in 2024. Important to note is that Takeda is working to acquire Shire, and the combined company would be big enough to command a position on the top 10 big pharma rankings, according to Evaluate. The analysis excludes generic sales, according to the group. If you have any comments, please get in touch.
Headquarters: Basel, Switzerland
2017 prescription sales: $41.9 billion
Projected 2024 sales: $53.2 billion
Novartis might not have many drugs ranked among the top 15 by sales in 2024—as predicted by Evaluate—but a range of offerings will push the Swiss drugmaker past all rivals in the coming years to the industry’s top spot, with a projected $53 billion in annual sales that year.
After generating $41.9 billion last year, Evaluate predicts in its recent World Preview report that Novartis will grow sales 3% annually to $53.2 billion. That figure will give it enough sales to edge out the next competitor Pfizer by $2 billion.
Unlike some of its rivals, though, the analysts don’t expect Novartis to market any drugs ranking in the top 15 by 2024 sales.
Instead, it’s a group of smaller meds expected to carry the torch for Novartis. Evaluate expects Novartis’ autoimmune drug Cosentyx to be the company’s top med by 2024 sales—at $5.5 billion—followed by heart failure med Entresto at $4.43 billion. The analysts say the company will have 10 blockbusters in 2024, and another 12 meds with more than $500 million in annual sales.
Tapped to navigate the company into the future is Vas Narasimhan, who took the reins from former CEO Joe Jimenez in February. In an interview with Forbes, Narasimhan explained how he aims to apply technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing to benefit drug discovery and development.
In an early challenge in Narasimhan’s tenure, Novartis came under scrutiny this year for a consulting deal with Michael Cohen, the former lawyer for President Donald Trump. Novartis said Jimenez entered the deal to get insight about the administration’s approach to healthcare. But it later came out through a Senate report that Jimenez and Cohen interacted more than the company initially let on.
Over the years, Novartis has repeatedly encountered bribery scandals in various countries. In August, Novartis hired an ethics chief, Klaus Moosmayer from Siemens, to help in that department. He has unveiled a new compensation program that lowers bonuses and raises fixed pay. What’s more, unless a sales representative scores at least a 2 on a scale of 3 for their “values and behaviors,” they will not be eligible for that variable component of their pay.
Meanwhile, Novartis is also an early leader in next-gen cancer treatment with CAR-T, with Kymriah scoring the world’s first-ever approval in the field. Since then, Novartis picked up gene therapy player AveXis in April for $8.9 billion, boosting its stake in the emerging field. With the deal, the company picked up a potential blockbuster in AVXS-101, a phase 3 gene therapy candidate to treat spinal muscular atrophy, and a platform to discover future meds.
In September, Novartis’ Kymriah won European approval and NICE support in the U.K. for use on the NHS.
Headquarters: New York, New York
2017 prescription sales: $45.4 billion
Projected 2024 sales: $51.2 billion
Led by breast cancer med Ibrance and the world’s bestselling vaccine Prevnar 13, Pfizer is slated to grow sales 2% on average over the next several years to capture the No. 2 ranking in 2024’s biggest pharma companies by revenue.
Analysts expect Pfizer’s breast cancer drug Ibrance to post impressive growth during the period to $8.28 billion globally, or 15% on average per year from 2017’s $3.13 billion haul. Behind that drug in Pfizer’s portfolio is the big-selling pneumococcal shot Prevnar 13. Sales for the vaccine are slated to remain flat at about $5.7 billion over the coming years, according to the analysts.
Aside from Ibrance and Prevnar, Pfizer cancer med Bavencio, plus immunology drugs Xeljanz and Eucrisa, will be important contributors in the coming years, as will biosimilars, Evaluate notes. Pfizer picked up much of its biosim slate through its $15 billion Hospira buy in 2015.
As those drugs generate important sales for Pfizer, the company is advancing a 20-valent vaccine designed to follow-up behind Prevnar 13. But the drugmaker could see a challenge from Merck’s late-stage 15-valent pneumococcal vaccine, which that rival is testing in a phase 3 study against Prevnar 13.
On a recent conference call, Pfizer COO head Albert Bourla said the vaccines could launch at a “competitive timeframe,” but that Pfizer’s vaccine stands to offer “a much broader spectrum of coverage quality.”
Like Merck, Pfizer has made vaccines an important part of its strategy going forward. Aside from the 20-valent pneumococcal candidate, Pfizer is working on late-stage C. diff vaccine and a midstage S. aureus candidate.
Pfizer, which has grown through megamergers, hasn’t been able to strike any big deals since its massive Wyeth buy in 2009, which brought Prevnar along with it. The company made runs at AstraZeneca and Allergan, but both fell short.
Market watchers have wondered if the company could make an offer for Bristol-Myers Squibb. Without such a move, the market has also questioned whether the company will split. In July, Pfizer announced a restructuring that could set it up for that in the future.
Pfizer this year captured unwanted attention after raising prices on dozens of drugs—some by more than 9%. The increases caught the ire of President Donald Trump, who tweeted that Pfizer “should be ashamed” of the move. After a phone call between Trump, HHS secretary Alex Azar and Pfizer CEO Ian Read, the company agreed to defer the price hikes. The drugmaker, like pharma at large, continues to face scrutiny on pricing since the move.