Top pharmaceutical companies in the world? (2021)

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

The wake of the covid pandemic has created drastic changes, and impacts on all aspects of the global economy and social life. Communities across the globe came together and looked to the pharmaceutical industry to create solutions. Fuelled by new product launches and an aging population, the global pharmaceutical industry continues to grow and was up by an impressive US$1.27 trillion in 2020.

Looking at their pharmaceutical segment results only, the leading pharmaceutical companies by their 2020 revenue have been ranked. The list below shows the top 5 biggest pharma companies in the world in 2021:

1. Roche $49.5

Roche maintains its position as the largest company by pharmaceutical sales in 2021. Roche is at the forefront of oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology, and neuroscience. In 2020, sales of Roche’s pharma segment decreased by 6% due to the fact that patients were avoiding visiting healthcare providers with the Covid-19 pandemic.

2. Novartis $48.6

Novartis is a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company, which focuses on innovative medicines as well as generics and biosimilars. With a number of patent losses in 2020, the company faces stiff competition from scientific advances and other company’s new products but remains confident in the progress it has made with its strategic priorities as a focused medicines company.

3. AbbVie $45.8

AbbVie was created in 2013 when the company separated from Abbott. Employing 48,000 experts worldwide in 70+ countries, AbbVie tends to drive its R&D efforts towards difficult-to-cure diseases and successfully acquired. In 2020, AbbVie’s revenues increased by 38%, with the immunology portfolio up by 13% and hematologic oncology up by an impressive 22%.

4. Johnson & Johnson $45.6

Johnson & Johnson develops and produces pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and consumer health goods. Sales for the company’s pharmaceutical division grew by 8.4% driven by a number of key performers including the biologic for the treatment of a number of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, Darzalex, treatment of multiple myeloma, Imruvica, and prostate cancer drug, Erleada. In early 2021, J&J’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use by the FDA, which is expected to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and boost the company’s performance in 2021.

5. Merck $43

Founded in 1891, Merck is headquartered in New Jersey and focuses on pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and animal health. In 2020, Merck’s sales for its pharmaceuticals division increased by 3% to $43.0bn.

Insights into Brand value growth

There are some overarching factors that have stood out as key contributors to brand value growth. Such as high brand equity, the right marketing strategy, and smart investment. However, the covid 19 pandemic has created unexpected opportunities for many businesses. In the journey to bring the pandemic under control through mass immunization, whoever is faster has a leading advantage.

This year although in 6th place, Pfizer has reversed its fortunes recording a 6% brand value increase to US$4.0 billion. They had an achievement accomplished in a mere ten months, a journey that would normally take closer to ten years. Another forerunner in the vaccine race, partnered with Oxford University, is AstraZeneca which has recorded a healthy 18% brand value to grow US$3.2 billion.

The pandemic also creates opportunities for new entrants. China’s Sinopharm for instance has recorded a 58% brand value increase to US$2.4 billion, simultaneously jumping 3 spots to 11thposition. In the context of the pandemic, there will be unpredictable changes and the ranking of the most valuable companies in the pharmaceutical industry will soon update. It's hard to know which name will come up next in the first place.

Sources:, 2.

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