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Best Pharmaceutical Companies – Quarterly Analysis – Q4 2017

Here is the most comprehensive review and analysis of the quarterly results of the 10 best pharmaceutical companies. This series provide you with a regular performance update of the major pharmaceutical and biotechnology players


Product sales Q4 2017: $13.7 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $52.5 billion

With a full-year revenue of $52.5 billion, Pfizer is number 1 on the list of top selling pharmaceutical companies of 2017. Pfizer’s fourth quarter revenue of 2017 came to $13.7 billion which is a 1% increase compared to Q4 revenue of 2016. Its revenue performance was driven by continued strength from several anchor brands, including LYRICA, PREVNAR 13 and IBRANCE.

Ian Read, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, stated “In 2017, we received ten approvals from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), significantly more than Pfizer has achieved in any year in the past decade.” Approved drugs include; BOSULIF, STELAGTRO, STEGLUJAN, SEGLUROMET, SUTENT, XELJANZ.


Product sales Q4 2017: $12.9 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $49.1 billion

Novartis delivered solid performance in 2017 with a total net sales of USD 49.1 billion, which is a 1% in reported terms and up 2% in constant currencies. Financial performance was boosted by strong sales key growth drivers such as COSENTYX, GLEEVEC/GLIVECand GILENYA. Sales of GLEEVEC/GLIVEC declined by 42% due to the impact of competition from other generic versions

Novartis made strong progress in its R&D in 2017. From the US FDA, they received 16 major approvals, made 16 major submissions, and received six breakthrough therapy designations. The FDA approved KYMRIAH (tisagenlecleucel, formerly CTL019) to treat children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Novartis also filed for FDA approval for KYMRIAH to treat adults’ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Targeted cancer therapies such as KISQALI (ribociclib, formerly LEE011), got approved in 45 countries – including the US and Europe – to treat advanced or metastatic breast cancer, and RYDAPT (midostaurin), got approved in the US and in Europe for acute myeloid leukemia and advanced systemic mastocytosis


Product sales Q4 2017: CHF 10.6 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: CHF 41.2 billion

In 2017, Roche group sales rose 5% to CHF 53.3 billion. Sales in the Pharmaceuticals Division increased 5% to CHF 41.2 billion. Recently launched medicines OCREVUS, TECENTRIQ AND ALECENSA contributed CHF 1.4 billion of new sales. This represents 65% of the division’s growth. Major sale drivers in 2017 were MabTHERA/RITUXAN, HERCEPTIN and AVASTIN.

In 2017, the US FDA approved two new medicines, namely OCREVUS for the treatment of relapsing and primary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis and HEMLIBRA for people with haemophlia A with factor VIII inhibitors. In the EU, approval was granted for ALECENSA as a monotherapy for the first-line treatment of adult patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive, advanced NSCLC. In January 2018, European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved OCREVUS for the treatment of both the relapsing and the primary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis and HEMLIBRA was granted a positive opinion by the CHMP. Roche also reported positive results for several key clinical studies in 2017.


Product sales Q4 2017: €8.7 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: €35 billion

In the fourth quarter of 2017, company sales were €8,691 million up by 2.0% on a reported basis and up 4.1% CER. Net sales in 2017 were €35,055 million, up by 3.6% on a reported basis and 5.6% CER. Sanofi’s strong sales in the fourth quarter was driven by recent launches of new products like DUPIXENT. DUPIXIENT which is for the treatment of moderate-to severe adult atopic dermatitis (AD), generated sales of €118 million in the fourth quarter. Other key brands that contributed to Sanofi’s performance are LANTUS, LOVENOX and PLAVIX.

Sanofi also bagged some approvals in the last quarter of 2017. Early this year, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) in Japan granted marketing and manufacturing authorization for DUPIXENT® for the treatment of atopic dermatitis in adults not adequately controlled with existing therapies. In December 2017, Sanofi submitted a supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) for dupilumab (partnership with Regeneron) to the US FDA for uncontrolled, persistent asthma for patients aged 12 and over. Currently, Sanofi’s pipeline contains 70 projects.


Product sales Q4 2017: $9.7 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $36.3 billion

In the last 3 months of 2017, J&J pharmaceutical division delivered sales worth $9.7billion, a 15.5% increase of its Q4 2016 sales. Its total sales for the year came to $36.3 billion, up by 8%. In its pharmaceutical division, strong growth was seen in new products such as DARZALEX, IMBRUVICA and TREMFYA. Overall, the strongest contributors to J&J successful year are STELARA, REMICADE and XARELTO.

In the R&D space, J&J got FDA approvals for JULUCA for the treatment of HIV-1 infection, XARELTO (10mg) for reducing the continued risk of recurrent venous thromboembolism and SIMPONI ARIA for treatment of adults with active psoriatic arthritis or active ankylosing spondylitis. The European Commission approved TREMFYA® (guselkumab) and ZYTIGA®. Other advancement in the pipeline include submission of regulatory applications for approvals to the FDA and EMA for DARZALEX and XARELTO.


Product sales Q4 2017: $9.3 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $35.4 billion

Merck delivered sales worth $9.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017. Its full year sales came to $35.4 billion which is a 1% increase of its 2016 sales. In its press release, Merck highlights that the increase in sales seen in the fourth quarter and full year is due to sales of vaccines from 19 European countries which were part of the Sanofi Pasteur MSD vaccines joint venture. The joint venture was terminated on the 31st of December, 2016. Other sales driver include JANUMET, KEYTRUDA and GARDASIL.

Merck expanded its oncology pipeline in 2017. KEYTRUDA is the highlight of its pipeline with several approvals for various oncology indications, advancement in clinical trials and receipt of Breakthrough Therapy Designation. Other approvals include PREVYMIS for prevention of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and ISENTRESS for treatment of HIV-1 in newborn patients.


Product sales Q4 2017: $7.7 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $28.2 billion

AbbVie’s worldwide revenues was $7.7 billion in the fourth quarter, which is a 12.6% increase when compared to the quarterly results of 2016. AbbVie delivered a full year revenue of $28.2 billion, a 10% increase from the previous year. HUMIRA remains the major sales driver with a sales of $4.9 billion in the fourth quarter and $18.4 billion in the full year.

In the fourth quarter, AbbVie made progress in its research and development. AbbVie announced top line results from its Phase 3 SELECT-MONOTHERAPY clinical trials evaluating Upadactitnib (ABT-494) for severe rheumatoid arthritis and from IMMhance study. The fourth pivotal study evaluating Risankizumab for treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Upadacitinib was also granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation by US FDA in the fourth quarter.


Product sales Q4 2017: $5.9 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $26.1 billion

Gilead’s total revenue for the fourth quarter was $5.9 billion which is $1.4 billion less than the revenue for the same period in 2016. Its full year revenue was $26.1 billion and compared to the full year revenue of 2016, there is 16.4% decline. Gilead make the most sales from its antiviral products. Antiviral product sales were $5.2 billion in the fourth quarter and $23.3 billion in the full year. The key sales drivers are HARVONI, EPCLUSA and HCV.

Gilead announced results from various Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies in its HIV/Liver disease programs and Oncology/Cell therapy programs. They also received an approval from the FDA for YESCARTA, the first CAR T cell therapy for the treatment of lymphoma.


Product sales Q4 2017: $7.7.4billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $28.2 billion

With a total revenue of $28.2 billion in 2017, Amgen has retained its place as one of the top 10 selling pharmaceutical companies. In the fourth quarter, Amgen’s revenue dropped by 3% to $5.8 billion and dropped by 1% to $22.8 billion in the full year. In 2017, Amgen reported strong volume driven growth from its recently launched products. Interestingly, decline in sales performance was reported for its key brands- ENBREL, NEULASTA and ARANESP, due to reduced unit demand and net selling price.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, the US FDA approved sBLA for REPATHA. Amgen also submitted a supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) to the FDA and a variation to the marketing authorization to the EMA for KRYPOLIS. In December, patients began enrolling in a Phase 3 study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of tezepelumab in adults and adolescents with severe uncontrolled asthma. In the same month, FDA accepted for priority review an sBLA for BLINCYNTO for the treatment of MRD in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).


Product sales Q4 2017: $5.78 billion

Product sales 12 months ending 2017: $22.5 billion

AstraZeneca’s total revenue for 2017 $22.5 billion and its revenue for the fourth quarter is $5.8 billion. Its total revenue for 2017 declined by 2% in 2017. Astra Zeneca’s good sales performance is driven by strong performance from SYMBICORT, CRESTOR and NEXIUM. The company’s new oncology products also reported a remarkable growth with a 98% increase in sales. TAGRISSO generated $955 million and has become AstraZeneca’s largest selling oncology medicine.

In 2017, AZ made credible advancement in its pipeline. FALSODEX got approved in the US and in Europe for breast cancer; LYNPARZA for ovarian cancer in Japan and for breast cancer in the US; and FANSERA in the US, Europe and Japan. An sNDA for the use of TAGRISSO in the 1st line treatment of NSCLC was accepted by the US FDA. Also an MAA for TAGRISSO to the EMA was accepted in November, 2017. AstraZeneca also made key advancements in its development pipeline in moving potential candidates from early stage to late stage.

Sources: SEC filings, companies websites, and annual reports.


Luca Dezzani is a Novartis employee. All the views, analysis, and perspectives are fully independent and belongs to the author only. They do not represent the views or opinions of Novartis or any other company or organization. IgeaHub is a pharmaceutical blog created and curated by Luca Dezzani.  IgeaHub does not receive any funding or support from Novartis or any other pharmaceutical company.

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