The biggest pharmaceutical companies by market cap are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis, Roche Holding and Merck.
The pharmaceutical sector is largely a long-term play that can offer massive benefits with the right technologies and smart research. The biggest pharmaceutical companies dominate the space thanks to their wide reach and resources.
For that reason, investors interested in the pharmaceutical industry can benefit from being aware of the major players, from who they are to what they’re working on.
With that in mind, the Investing News Network has put together key information on the biggest pharmaceutical companies by market cap. Companies are listed by market cap in descending order, and all data was current at the time of publication.
1. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)
Market cap: $371.94 billion
Starting off this list of the biggest pharmaceutical companies is Johnson & Johnson, a holding company focused on the healthcare field. Life science companies often specify their focus, but thanks to its massive scale, Johnson & Johnson covers many areas through its subsidiaries across the globe.
In 2018, Johnson & Johnson announced the opening of its new Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore. As the company put it, over 50 percent of the world resides in this expansive region, and “almost 80% of that population doesn’t have access to affordable healthcare.”
The firm also teamed up with Boston University in June 2018 with the goal of better treatment and early detection of lung cancer over the next five years. The company was nominated for the Fortune Change the World list in August for its health educational and training programs at its Johnson & Johnson Institute. In its most recent quarterly report, Johnson & Johnson claimed $20.8 billion in sales.
2. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)
Market cap: $256.70 billion
Another giant in the medical world, Pfizer is active in the development of multiple healthcare products. In 2018, Pfizer announced it would be divvying up its business into three units. These include: Innovative Medicines, Established Medicines and Consumer Healthcare.
Innovative Medicines includes a hospital unit and biosimilars. Established Medicines is comprised of many of the firm’s off-patient products and brands. Meanwhile, Consumer Healthcare is a division that Pfizer had considered selling in 2017; however, no enticing offers came in, so it resolved to keep the unit — worth $15 billion. This unit consists of products such as lip balms and Advil. Carving up the company into three divisions is expected help Pfizer focus on its different demographics.
3. Novartis (NYSE:NVS)
Market cap: $199.44 billion
Next on this list of the biggest pharmaceutical companies is Novartis, a healthcare company based in Switzerland. The company has been in business since 1996 via the merger of Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy, which combined have a history dating back more than 200 years.
Novartis prides itself on its drugs manufactured for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related macular degeneration, osteoporosis and more. The Sandoz division of the company produces over 1,000 different generic medicines and biosimilars. For its part, the Alcon division focuses on eyesight and related products. Novartis also employs 6,000 scientists and physicians to further its research and development in the field.
Novartis made headlines this year by receiving FDA approval for the first CAR-T treatment available on the market. Kymriah is a medication consisting of re-engineered T-cells collected from a patient, then reapplied to combat cancer cells causing a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, said the company was proud to be part of the historic approval.
The company also recently lost what is being called a “landmark” case. Together with Bayer (OTCMKTS:BAYRY), Novartis had attempted to block the use of competitor Roche Holding’s (OTCMKTS:RHHBY) low-cost product. The rejection of this case will mean greater competition for the treatment of wet-AMD, and could mean a loss in sales for Novartis’ drug Lucentis.
4. Roche Holding
Market cap: $208.76 billion
Roche Holding is one of the largest biotech companies in the field. Its reach expands into oncology, immunology, diseases related to the central nervous system and ophthalmology. The company has more than 90,000 employees spanning 100 countries around the globe. Roche boasts that it spends approximately 9 billion Swiss francs on research and development each year.
In 2018, Roche was ranked the most sustainable healthcare firm on the pharmaceuticals index of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices. It is the 10th year in a row the company has received this designation. For the first half of 2018, the company also announced an increase in group sales of 7 percent, with sales from its pharmaceuticals division increasing by 7 percent. Roche also reported approvals for several of its drugs and said that core earnings per share grew 19 percent.
5. Merck (NYSE:MRK)
Market cap: $187.9 billion
Last on this list of the biggest pharmaceutical companies is Merck. It has risen as a global biopharmaceutical company operating in four different market areas: pharmaceuticals, animal health, healthcare services and alliances. The company produces medicines, vaccines and animal health products, and is headquartered in New Jersey. It has 69,000 employees across 140 countries and spent $7.3 billion on research and development last year.
Merck has a partnership with Incyte to combine Incyte’s immune-oncology drug Epacadfostat and the company’s own Keytruda cancer treatment in patients with melanoma. This combination has provided some encouraging results, including increased effectiveness in neutralizing cancer. The company also has several other drugs in its active pipeline, with 12 programs in Phase II and 19 in Phase III.
In September 2018, Merck’s drug Keytruda received approval from the European Commission for chemotherapy treatment in patients with lung cancer. According to Reuters, “[l]ung cancer is by far the most lucrative oncology market with first-line approval providing access to the most patients.” This win has put Merck ahead of its competitors in this niche slice of the market.
Which of the biggest pharmaceutical companies would you invest in? Which is the most auspicious or most stable? We’d like to hear your take below.
This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2017.
Don’t forget to follow @INN_LifeScience for real-time updates!
Securities Disclosure: I, Amanda Kay, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.