Who will be pharma top dog in 2016?

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2016 will see Pfizer continue to cling to first place in the top ten pharma list, but Merck & Co. and Novartis will not be far behind.

2016 will see Pfizer continue to cling to first place in the top ten pharma list, but Merck & Co. and Novartis will not be far behind. A few major patent decisions or further mega-mergers could topple the pharma giant from its coveted perch, according to analysis from EvaluatePharma.

EvaluatePharma's World Preview 2016 report predicts worldwide annual sales for Pfizer to be approximately $47.1 billion, a 2% drop compared with its 2009 sales of $55.3 billion. Meanwhile, worldwide annual sales for the company's closest rivals, Merck & Co. and Novartis, are expected to be more positive — Merck & Co. is expected to see a 2% increase in sales from $41.6 billion in 2009 to $46.3 billion in 2016, while Novartis will see sales increase 3% from $37.3 billion to $46 billion in the same period. Roche is also not far behind the pack leaders. Ranked sixth in EvaluatePharma's top 10 in 2009 with annual sales of $36 billion, the company is expected to muscle into fourth place in 2016 with sales of $43.9 billion.

"Despite uncertainties over the impact of budget deficits in Europe and healthcare reform in the US, the prospect appears now to be one of modest year-on-year market growth averaging 2.9% per annum between 2010 and 2016," said a press release from EvaluatePharma. "At present, there is no sign of a return to high single-digit growth that has characterised the industry over the last decade."

As well as the relatively low growth rates, the analysis also highlights another important trend — the impact of the patent cliff and the rise of generics. 2016 will see a surprise appearance in pharma's top ten as Teva's worldwide annual sales are expected to leap from $12.6 billion in 2009 to $20.8 billion in 2016 at compound annual growth rate of 7%. The result will boost the generics giant from 15th place to tenth. However, EvaluatePharma questions whether the company may move away from its traditional image as a generics player.

"Teva's recent M&A and licensing deals point to an increased appetite and desire to build a pipeline of novel drugs and become more involved in the world of branded and patented product development and commercialisation," said the press release. "As such, the company could gradually come to be seen as essentially another big pharma giant, not dissimilar from the likes of Novartis."


All in all, Pfizer has a lot to worry about. Last year in its World Preview 2014 report, EvaluatePharma revealed that not a single Pfizer product would be among 2014's Top 10 products by sales. However, the situation for the company could be much worse as its merger with Wyeth has at least offered some protection against the patent cliff. Prior to the merger, research in 2008 from URCH Publishing had predicted that Pfizer would fall from first to third in the top ten pharma list by 2012.

For the moment, however, Pfizer has much to be pleased about. Earlier this week, the company released its Q1 financial results for 2010, boasting revenues of $16.8 billion — an increase of 54% compared with the same period in 2009. Revenues were favourably impacted by the Wyeth acquisition, although the company did take hits of $137 million and $56 million due to legacy Pfizer products by loss of exclusivity or reclassification of revenues and the recently enacted US healthcare legislation, respectively.