Pharma IQ Reviews Innovation at the Top 10 Global Drug Companies Over the Last 15 Years

Pharma IQ

Over the last 15 years, according to Forbes, the pharmaceuticals industry has been undergoing somewhat of a drought when it comes to innovation and the creation of groundbreaking new products. However, when looking at the top 10 companies in the world, it is clear to see that some have still been working tirelessly to provide new products over the period. We take a look at the list of leaders.

1. Novartis

Novartis is a Swiss-based company that is best known for its production of Methylphenidate, or Ritalin, the psychostimulant drug which helps to calm those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Over the course of the last 15 years, the company has released no fewer than 21 products.

These include Glivec, a drug which restricts the functionality of the receptor tyrosine kinase enzyme in cells to combat chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors among other diseases. Such was the success of the product that it has now been certified by the FDA to treat no fewer than 10 cancers.

Novartis hit its highest point in financial terms during May of last year, when stock prices were at a peak of $61.84, a month in which the company was given a boost when its Votubia drug was the first to be approved in Switzerland for the treatment of a benign brain tumour related to tuberous sclerosis. 

2. Merck & Co.

Despite being one of the world's biggest drug companies, Merck & Co. fell some way behind the leader Novartis in terms of how many drugs it has released in the last 15 years, clocking up a total of 16.

Perhaps one of its biggest areas of innovation in the period has been the development and release of Gardasil, which is the world's only vaccine to protect against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), one of the leading causes of cervical cancer in young women.

In 1999, the stock of Merck & Co. Soared to an unprecedented level of $119.186, after it received an investment of $1.8 billion following the joint venture between itself and the merged companies of Astra, as well as the introduction of the arthritis medication Vioxx.

3. J&J

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is an American company which is ranked as the world's most respected by Barron's Magazine. Its pharmaceuticals division was launched in 2001, and it has since released 15 products into the market.

Its top drugs include such items as Combantrin, a Pyrantel pamoate product which is used in the treatment of pinworms in people.

One of the peaks over the last ten years for J&J came when it hit the headlines in June 2001, after a merger was approved with Alza Corporation, the company which manufactures chemotherapy drug Doxil. At this time, the stock for J&J would reach an all-time high of $84.71.

4. Pfizer

Pfizer has released a number of high-profile drugs throughout the last 15 years. However, perhaps its biggest success during this time has come in the form of Aricept, a drug which is designed to improve the cognitive functions of people with a mild form of Alzheimer's Disease. It is the biggest selling product of this type on the market, and one of the 14 that Pfizer has released over the last 15 years.

The height of the last 15 years for Pfizer came during June 1999, following a second quarter of that year throughout which the company reported a high level of revenues, with its products such as Lipitor, Aricept, and Celebrex selling particularly well.

5. Wyeth

Coming in just below Pfizer is the company which it bought out in 2009, Wyeth. Before it was made a part of Pfizer, Wyeth contributed to innovation in the pharmaceutical market with 13 drugs between 1997 and its takeover, including Enbrol, a TNF inhibitor which helps to treat auto-immune disease by targeting tumour necrosis factors in the brain.

Wyeth was merged in 2009 with Pfizer, which brought to an end the production of its own drugs.

6. Bristol-Myers Squibb

A relative newcomer when compared to other companies in the top 10, Bristol-Myers Squibb was formed as recently as 1989 after a merger of its predecessors.

Of its 11 drugs released in the last 15 years, one of its biggest has been the 2006-approved Atripla, a drug which helped in the treatment of HIV by becoming one of the first combined daily-dosage drugs.

A peak in its stock prices was seen for Bristol-Myers Squibb in February of 1999, when it reached the height of $93.16. During this month, the company and EntreMed Inc. modified their research program into cancer treatments. It also first saw the operation of a new investment company it had spent $30 million setting up in Shanghai the month before.

7. Hoffmann-La Roche

Having also released 11 drugs in the period, Swiss pharma firm Hoffmann-La Roche is another which has had considerable success with new products since 1997.

It is best known as the maker of the anti-depressant Valium, but in the last 15 years it has released such medication as Xenical, an anti-obesity product which is sold mostly over the counter around the world.

One highlight in terms of stock prices for the Swiss firm came in December 2004, a year during which Hoffmann-La Roche was granted FDA approval for the use of its AmpliChip for in vitro diagnostic use as opposed to simply for research.

8. Lilly

Eli Lilly and Company is an Indiana-based firm, founded by the chemist of the same name, which sells products in over 125 nations worldwide, and has also released 11 drugs over the past 15 years.

Its innovations include such products as Ciallis, a PDE5 inhibitor which is used in many countries as a treatment for the common issue of erectile dysfunction.

Eli Lily's most successful period over the last 15 years came at the very beginning of the period in 1997. In October, the stock price reached $98.19, just ahead of the company being given approval for its Evista drug, used in the treatment of Osteoporosis.

9. GlaxoSmithKline

Despite being perhaps the most well known of all pharma firms worldwide, GlaxoSmithKline has released just 10 drugs in the last 15 years, leaving it a distance behind many others.

The newer products from the company include such drugs as Coreg, a Carvedilol-based product which is used by doctors to treat congestive heart failure as a beta-blocker.

In July 2007, the price of shares in GlaxoSmithKline hit an eight-year high when the company announced the extension of a buy back scheme for the two years which were to follow.

10. Abbot

The final company to make the top 10 is Abbot Laboratories, an American firm which has managed to release nine drug products across the globe throughout the last 15 years.

One of its biggest innovatory products is Humira (adalimumab), a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis which was the third TNF inhibitor approved in the US.

Abbot has recently enjoyed a soaring price in its stocks which saw investors welcoming the best returns in 14 years in early May, despite the fact that the company had to come to a settlement of $1.5 billion dollars relating to drug marketing earlier this month.

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