35th Anniversary Special: Decades of Change for the Top Pharmaceutical Companies - Pharmaceutical Technology

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35th Anniversary Special: Decades of Change for the Top Pharmaceutical Companies
Tracking changes from spinoffs of chemical companies to life-sciences powerhouses.


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 36, Issue 7, pp. 54-56, 61

Building critical mass in the 2000s


Table II: Top global pharmaceutical companies, 2000
Pfizer's ascent from the 14th ranked pharmaceutical company in 1990 to the number one company in 2000 was achieved by acquisition, most notably the acquisition of Warner-Lambert in 2000, for which Pfizer had outbid American Home Products (see Tables I, II). In 1996, Pfizer had formed a comarketing agreement with Warner-Lambert on Lipitor and with its acquisition of Warner-Lambert in 2000, Pfizer secured its top prize in Lipitor, which was to become the top-selling prescription drug for Pfizer and the industry during the 2000s. With the acquisition of Warner-Lambert, Lipitor became one of eight blockbuster drugs (defined as drugs with sales of $1 billion or more) for Pfizer in 2000. The others were: Norvasc, Zoloft, Neurontin, Celebrex, Zithromax, Viagra, and Diflucan.

In 2003, Pfizer acquired Pharmacia. In 1995, Pharmacia & Upjohn was formed through the merger of Pharmacia AB and the Upjohn Company. In 2000, Pharmacia acquired Monsanto, which included G.D. Searle, the pharmaceutical unit of Monsanto, and in 2002, Pharmacia spun off Monsanto as a separate agrochemical/agricultural company.


Table III: Top global pharmaceutical companies, 2011
In 2009, Pfizer acquired Wyeth for $68 billion, cementing its position as the number one global pharmaceutical company (see Table III). The Pfizer–Wyeth merger was one of three megamergers in the late 2000s. In 2009, Merck & Co. acquired Schering-Plough for $41 billion, and Roche acquired the remaining shares that it did not already own of the biopharmaceutical company, Genentech, for $47 billion. In April 2011, Sanofi-Aventis completed its acquisition of the biopharmaceutical company Genzyme and simplified its name to Sanofi in May 2011.

In 2011, Abbott Laboratories announced plans to separate into two companies: one in medical products, which will keep the Abbott name, and a second company focused on research-based pharmaceuticals, which will be called AbbVie. The separation is expected to be completed later this year in 2012.

The decade of the 2010s

What will the next decade bring? In looking at the list of the top 15 global pharmaceutical companies in 2011, we see two key trends already represented: the rising role of generic drugs in the prescription drug market through the positioning of the generic-drug compay Teva Pharmaceutical among the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies and the growing importance of biologic-based drugs through the rise in the rankings of the biopharmaceutical company Amgen as well Roche and Sanofi following their respective acquisitions of the biopharmaceutical companies Genentech and Genzyme (see Table III).


A look into the future: the pharmaceutical company of 2020
What then will be the pharmaceutical company of 2020 be (see sidebar)? Will the next decade bring more bolt-on acquisitions as pharmaceutical companies focus on specialty-based products as the blockbuster-drug model erodes? Will there be acquisitions in diagnostics for building positions in personalized therapeutics or other healthcare-related businesses? What role will emerging markets play? Are there other megamergers in the offing? Although we don't know the answers to these questions yet, one thing is certain: as in previous decades, the decade of the 2010s portends to be another period of change for the global pharmaceutical industry.


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