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Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Volume 23, Issue 12

Will Sanofi be top in 2012?

There could be changes coming in next year's Big Pharma league. The current king of the industry is Pfizer, but a report from analysis firm EvaluatePharma has predicted that the company will find itself in the shadow of bigger fish as patent expiries and draining pipelines take their toll. The new leviathan in the industry will be Sanofi, which is expected to experience sales of $51.6 billion in 2012, while Pfizer will drop to third place with predicted sales of $49.8 billion. In between the two in second place will be Novartis with forecast sales of $49.9 billion.

The rankings are expected to stay the same until at least 2016, but the gap between the new top two and Pfizer will widen with Sanofi and Novartis growing at a projected compound annual growth rate of 4% and 2% respectively, compared with Pfizer's 1% over the period 2011–2016. Pfizer may also face competition from GlaxoSmithKline and Roche, which won't be far behind in terms of sales. By 2016, GlaxoSmithKline is expected to rank fourth with sales of $50.9 billion (compared with ranking fifth in 2011 with $39.3 billion) while Roche will come in fifth with $49 billion (up from sixth in 2011 with $39.1 billion).

Changing fortunes

In 2011, Pfizer was forecast to have prescription and over-the-counter sales of $54.1 billion. The decline in revenue in 2012 and onwards can partly be attributed to Pfizer's US patent loss on Lipitor, which holds the record for the world's biggest selling medicine when sales peaked at $13.4 billion in 2008.

"Pfizer's $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth in 2009 went a long way to alleviate the pain of the impending loss of lipitor but the cholesterol-lowering statin is a huge product to replace… the loss of US patent protection in November means sales will shrink to $2 billion by 2016," said a news release from EvaluatePharma.

However, the release also added that Pfizer can expect to benefit from recent pipeline successes in rheumatoid arthritis (tofacitinib) and blood thinning (Eliquis). Top line drug sales are expected to start growing again by 2016.

As for Sanofi, EvaluatePharma ranked the company third in terms of sales ($47.billion) in 2011, but the French company has been moving up the rankings for some time. In particular, Sanofi has been boosted by a decade of mergers.

"The takeover of Genzyme this year was an aggressive cross-border move that revealed just how much the culture of Sanofi has changed in the last few years," explains the EvaluatePharma analysis. "The traditionally inward looking French drug maker has, like many of its peers, taken big strides to acquire and license innovation from beyond its own labs in an attempt to revive flagging R&D productivity."

The analysis adds that sales of Genzyme's enzyme replacement therapies should be enough to keep the crown on Sanofi's head until at least 2016 when it is forecast to have sales of $58.4 billion. As for Novartis, the company is expected to maintain second place until 2016 thanks to strong growth from Gilenya and Tasigna. The company will also be bolstered by its acquisition of eyecare company Alcon.

Meanwhile, there will also be some shuffling in the league table among the other drugmakers too. Merck, currently ranked 4th, will drop to 6th by 2016 and Eli Lilly will also drop through the rankings from 10th in 2011 to 15th in 2016. The analysis also highlights generics giant Teva, which is expected to rise from 12th position in 2011 to 9th in 2016 as it grows at a CAGR of 7%. Novo Nordisk will also experience a high growth rate—currently ranked in 17th place, the Danish diabetes specialist will climb up to 14th by 2016 with a CAGR of 9%.

Of course, as with any forecasts, the situation can chance and EvaluatePharma adds that another wave of mega mergers can't be ruled out in the ever-consolidating sector.


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