The top pharma companies in the world all have their bestselling drugs, which are blockbusters that form the base of their revenue. Halfway through the year, many of those treatments are already on their way to surpassing last year's numbers.
Each drug has a story to tell — whether it faces an upcoming patent cliff, is being developed for more indications or is a vaccine that changed the course of a pandemic. These blockbuster drugs are the building blocks that make up the pharma industry and the biggest players within its ranks.
Here, we're looking at the top pharma companies in the world ordered by market capitalization and their bestselling drugs through the first half of 2022.
Already the largest healthcare products company in the world when taking into account its three businesses — consumer, pharmaceutical and medical devices — J&J's pharma division stands on its own among the top in the industry, led by sales of its immunology drug Stelara. The multipurpose treatment for autoimmune diseases like arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn's disease has been on the market since 2009 and is expected to rake in more than $10 billion this year, according to an estimate from Evaluate Vantage. At almost $5 billion halfway through the year and with a new indication for children, the pharma giant is likely to get there — which is good because Stelara is staring down the barrel of a 2023 patent expiration.
One of three major diabetes drug makers, Eli Lilly leads the way in sales with Trulicity, which has also been shown in trials to work off-label to help people lose weight. At $3.65 billion halfway through the year, the medication just outshines Novo Nordisk's Ozempic. But like many bestsellers, Trulicity is also looking at a patent cliff this decade. Fear not, however, as Lilly's pipeline is deep with new versions that include the recently approved Mounjaro, which offers a dual-action mechanism that improves upon its predecessors.
One of the most iconic pharmaceutical stories in history is that of Pfizer and partner BioNTech's blazing fast road to approval for the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty. The initiative is paying off as the pandemic continues, driving Pfizer to the top of the revenue list for the first half of 2022 and in expectations for the year. Of course, a vaccine like Comirnaty isn't a long-term prospect without consistent updates to keep up with new variants, but the mRNA platform has allowed opportunities for advances, and White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said last week that new boosters could be available soon.
The top prescribed multiple sclerosis drug in the U.S. brought in the equivalent of $3.05 billion in the first half of its fifth year on the market, well on its way to outselling last year’s sales of $5.1 billion if Roche's Genentech keeps up the pace. Multiple sclerosis patients seem to like that they need the drug only twice a year to manage their disease, a preference the company has embraced in its marketing campaign. The COVID-19 pandemic has dampened Ocrevus sales slightly, however, as the drug makes vaccines less potent due to its effects on the immune system.
Outside of COVID-19 vaccines, Humira remains the bestselling drug in the world so far this year, reaching $13.35 billion. The party won't last long for AbbVie, though, as several companies have lined up to release U.S. biosimilars in 2023 — they've already hit the market in Europe, and sales of Humira there have declined. And with the drug making up almost half of the company's overall revenue, AbbVie needs to dig into its recently launched brands to make up the difference in coming years. For that, they're looking to the relative newcomers Rinvoq and Skyrizi that are beginning to take up the mantle in immunology.
The other diabetes leader cracking the top 10 pharmas by market capitalization is Denmark's Novo Nordisk, whose therapy Ozempic brought in the equivalent of $3.61 billion in the first half of the year. Like Lilly's Trulicity — in the same GLP-1 class of medicines — Ozempic showed that it could help with weight loss, even though it hasn't been approved for that indication. Because of that off-label use, the drug has been in high demand even among people who don't have diabetes, causing shortages around the world. Novo has newer drugs in its portfolio, as well, like last year's Wegovy that can help diabetes patients control their disease.
Keytruda remains the best-selling cancer drug in the world with just over $10 billion in sales through the first half of the year. The drug keeps racking up new indications and trial successes despite the occasional flop, like a recent failure in liver cancer in combination with Merck and Eisai’s treatment Lenvima. And like many drugs, these sales numbers won't last forever as Keytruda could face a patent cliff as early as 2028. New ways to deliver the drug and new combinations through partnerships and acquisitions could extend the blockbuster's life, and executives at Merck have indicated that is a possibility. After all, sales of Keytruda make up about a third of the company's overall revenue.
AstraZeneca is led by its lung cancer medication Tagrisso, which reached $2.7 billion in the first six months of 2022 and is set to outpace its 2021 mark of $5 billion. Like many cancer treatments, Tagrisso is making the rounds with combination studies, most recently along with the AZ-HutchMed joint-developed drug Orpathys. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and Tagrisso, which is now in its seventh year on the market, targets the most common version of it.
Cosentyx is another of the leading immunology drugs in the world, propelling Switzerland's Novartis to more than $25 billion in sales for the first half of the year. The drug has benefited from expanded indications, the latest of which gives it a foothold in childhood arthritis, much like J&J's Stelara. Novartis picked up the original approval in 2015 and it remains the only IL-17A drug on the market.
Bristol Myers' best-selling drug comes from a partnership with Pfizer — Eliquis brought in $6.45 billion in the first half of the year, surpassing the company's former top moneymaker Revlimid, which now faces competition after falling off its own patent cliff. Eliquis is in the crosshairs in the U.S. as a potential target of the newest drug pricing policy that allows Medicare to negotiate what it pays for such drugs. But executives at Bristol Myers hope that by the time that happens, they will have diversified and moved another asset from their portfolio into the top spot.