Who are the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world? (2020)

Hannah Burke our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 11/08/2020
Top 10 pharmaceutical companies - 2020



With demand for treatments ever increasing, pharmaceutical companies around the world are committed to drive critical innovation to deliver therapies for patients with unmet medical needs. In 2019, the global pharmaceutical industry continued to grow at a rapid pace, making an estimated $1.3 trillion. As expected, this was largely driven by new product launches such as AbbVie’s Skyrizi and Novartis’ Zolgensma. Slightly down from 2018, the US FDA approved 48 new drugs and biologics in 2019, which still comes in as the third biggest approval class in the past 25 years. The FDA approved an impressive number of generics with a huge 1,171 approvals, breaking its previous record of 971 in 2018. With the tough losses of patents for pharma companies, new product launches are becoming increasingly important.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which was first discovered at the end of 2019, has had an unprecedented impact on the world. Looking forward, communities across the globe are relying on the pharmaceutical industry to create solutions, and many of the companies in the top 10 are involved in the race to produce treatment or prevention measures for the Covid-19 disease. In 2020, we expect the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic to become clearer, although since access to healthcare providers has been restricted, the majority of pharma companies in the top 10 have been negatively impacted. 

We have ranked the leading pharmaceutical companies by 2019 revenue, looking at their pharmaceutical segment results only. The list below shows the top 10 biggest pharma companies in the world in 2020: 



Ranking in at number 10 is American multinational, Amgen. With its “biology-first approach”, Amgen produces innovative medicines and delivers them to 100 countries and regions worldwide. In 2019, Amgen’s revenue fell by 1%, largely caused by a decrease in revenue for Neulasta and Sinsipar/Mimpara which were both impacted by pressure from increased competition. In the earnings call, Amgen’s Chairman and CEO, Robert A. Bradway, confirmed the company is entering a new phase of new product revenue growth.  



A staple to the top 10 pharmaceutical companies is French multinational pharmaceutical giant, Sanofi. Sanofi provides healthcare solutions to 170 countries worldwide and has three core focuses: speciality care, vaccines and general medicines. In 2019, Sanofi’s pharmaceutical segment grew by 4% on a year-on-year basis, with a stellar performance from recently launched Eczema treatment Dupixent, which is set for further growth as Sanofi plans to extend its reach to another 89 countries. Looking to the future, Sanofi’s R&D pipeline is in a strong position to produce long-term growth. At the end of July 2020, the R&D programme had 83 projects, including 33 new molecular entities in clinical development (or that have been submitted to the regulatory authorities). 



Founded 133 years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb is a leading global pharmaceutical company that specialises in medicinal advancements in four key areas: oncology, haematology, immunology and cardiovascular disease. The company continued to produce strong growth in 2019, with revenues increasing by 15% year-on-year. In 2019, Bristol-Myers Squibb closed on the acquisition of Celgene, to create a leading biopharmaceutical company. With an extended portfolio of accomplished brands and new product launches, long-term the company is well positioned to achieve steady and sustainable growth. 



Headquartered in Osaka, Japanese multinational Takeda is the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia. Following its merger with Shire in early 2019, Takeda has secured its spot in the top 10. The company focuses its efforts in four core areas: oncology, rare diseases, neuroscience, and gastroenterology. Takeda’s geographic footprint is now strongly aligned with global biopharmaceutical industry growth opportunities, with strong presence in the US, Europe and Canada. As an R&D driven company, Takeda is demonstrating its innovation and values in its response to Covid-19 and in positioning itself for stable growth. 



AbbVie was created in 2013, when the company separated from Abbott. Employing 47,000 experts, AbbVie tends to drive its R&D efforts towards difficult-to-cure diseases and successfully acquired Allergan in May 2019, strengthening the company’s position in a number of therapeutic areas including immunology, oncology and neuroscience. In 2019, the company’s revenues increased by 2%, with significant clinical and philanthropic achievements. 



In the fifth spot is Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company, Novartis. Novartis has developed, manufactured and marketed breakthrough medicines for over 250 years. Now with presence in 155 countries across the world, Novartis focuses on innovative medicines as well as generics and biosimilars. In 2019, Innovative Medicines net sales rose by an impressive 8%, driven by pharma key brands Cosentyx, Entresto and Zolgensma. The Oncology division also generated notable growth, with revenues rising by 10%. In 2019, Novartis successfully divested its eye care division, Alcon, with the vision to create a more focused medicines company. Looking ahead, Novartis is set to suffer the greatest number of expiries in 2020 with eight drugs losing their market exclusivity. The company continues to strive for success across all divisions by continually streamlining its services and production platforms. 



American pharmaceutical company Merck takes fourth spot as one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world in 2019. Founded in 1891, Merck is headquartered in New Jersey and focuses on pharmaceuticals, vaccines and animal health. With 71,000 employees worldwide, the company is well known for its contributions to diabetes and cancer care. Full-year 2019 pharmaceutical sales increased by 11% to $41.8 billion. Key growth drivers included Keytruda, Gardasi and Varivax. Looking ahead, Merck continues to streamline its business model in order to invest in breakthrough innovation.



Johnson & Johnson remains in this year's list of the biggest pharmaceutical companies. With headquarters based in New Jersey, Johnson & Johnson develops and produces pharmaceuticals, medical devices and consumer health goods. With a strong performance by key brands Strelara, Darzalex and Imbruvica, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division grew by an impressive 4% in 2019. Looking ahead, Johnson & Johnson has a broad portfolio that is well positioned to deliver strong results and long-term growth. 



Former number one, leading pharma giant Pfizer takes second place in 2020. Pfizer specialises in the development of medicines and vaccines across a wide range of disciplines including immunology, oncology, cardiology and neurology. The company employees over 88,000 people and delivers its healthcare solutions to over 150 countries across the world. In recent years, Pfizer has dealt with some costly patent expirations including Viagra and Lyrica, and the company expects to be hit by more of these losses this year. In 2019, revenues for the company fell by 1%. A weak performance for consumer health and Upjohn (Pfizer’s off-patent medicine division) was offset by biopharma. Key performers in medicine included Irbrance, Eliquis, Lyrica and Xeljanz. In 2019, Pfizer took bold steps to position the company for sustained growth with the plan to combine Upjohn and Mylan’s strengths, resources and access. This was expected to close in 2020 but this has since been delayed due to the impact of Covid-19.



Roche has taken the top spot in 2020, surpassing Pfizer as the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world. With a workforce of over 90,000 and headquarters based in Basel Switzerland, Roche is at the forefront of oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and neuroscience. In 2019, sales of Roche’s pharma segment rose by a healthy 16% to $53bn. Growth for the pharma business was driven by the strong uptake of new medicines and product launches which more than compensated for biosimilar competition. Roche’s best-selling drugs included multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus, haemophilia medicine Hemlibra and cancer medicines Tecentriq and Perjeta. Looking to the future, Roche is developing its capabilities and building partnerships ready to deliver on the next stage in personalised healthcare and will continue to focus on prescription medicines. 

Let us know your thoughts on how the top 10 pharma companies in 2020 performed and how you see this list changing over the year ahead.

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