As of 2014, the global pharmaceutical market was worth about $1 trillion US dollars in sales and is expected to increase by US$300 billion within next two years. The ten largest companies with annual sales over $20 billion controlled over one-third of this market. The biggest pharmaceutical companies by sales according to the 2015 edition of Financial Times Global 500 companies are Jonhson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis, Roche, and Merck.

  • First ranked company, Jonhson & Johnson, is engaged in R&D, manufacture, and sale of products in the field of human health and well-being. Headquartered in New Jersey, USA, the company operates more than 250 companies with about 126,500 employees total in more than 60 countries.
  • Although Johnson & Johnson is number one by sales, it is third by R&D expenditure among pharmaceutical companies, giving way to Novartis and Roche.
  • While the headquarters of the top 10 are equally divided between the US and Europe, North America accounted for 45 percent of world pharmaceutical sales in 2015 compared to 25 percent for Europe.

The industry is poised for rapid market expansion and R&D growth - which is of particular importance to the pharmaceutical industry - in developing countries such as Brazil, China, and India that could foreshadow a significant market shift for the industry. Today, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as information and communications technology and automobiles, is considered to be a highly R&D intensive sector with an average of 13 percent of net sales dedicated to R&D. Of the world's top 2,500 companies that invested in R&D in 2014 - spending a €607.2 billion, or about 90% of the world's total - 316 were from the pharma & biotech sector. These companies' combined R&D spending accounted for 15 percent of the global R&D investment that year. Moreover, the pharma & biotech industry achieved an R&D spending increase that was 6.8 percent above the world average in 2014.

However significant R&D expenditures are relative to the global net sales of the industry, the R&D price tag is only half as much as pharma companies' expenditures on marketing and far exceeds spending on public information on health. This leads to a conflict of interest between the business goals of manufacturers and social needs to select drugs based on best information available. Pharmaceutical companies have a role to play across several aspects of public health promotion and education, particularly in relation to shifting demographics and deficits in public health care. 

  • Developed country populations are rapidly aging. The elderly consume nearly seven times the health care resources as younger populations, putting a burden on the access and affordability of complex combinations of pharmaceuticals. 
  • Demographic challenges take a slightly different form in developing economies, where local economies are not growing fast enough to meet the health care demands of expanding middle classes, thus requiring external support.
  • Three out of eight Millennium Development Goals are related to healthcare - reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV, AIDS, malaria and other diseases - further underscoring the need for diverse policy tools and a collaborative global response that includes participation from the information and resource rich pharmaceutical sector.

Coronavirus Data and Insights

Live data and insights on Coronavirus around the world, including detailed statistics for the US, EU, and China — confirmed and recovered cases, deaths, alternative data on economic activities, customer behavior, supply chains, and more.

Related Insights from Knoema

Health-Care Efficiency Around the World

The Russian health-care system is one of the least efficient in the world, but how inefficient is it? As low as it gets within the universe measured by the Health-Care Efficiency Index from Bloomberg. This year’s Index scored Russia as the least efficient of the 55 countries covered. Jordan, Colombia, Azerbaijan and Brazil rounded out the bottom five, with the US not far behind, scoring 50th in the ranking. The index evaluates data for countries with populations of 5 million people or more, GDPs per capita of at least $5,000, and population life expectancy over 70 years, with a...

Intoxicants usage among US students by grade, sex and race

Drug use among American students is a persistent and serious problem in modern US society. The development of telecommunication services has seriously simplified the process of accessing drugs not only for adults, but even for children, and contributed to a shift in the use patterns of 12th, 10th and 8th graders who regularly use intoxicants. According to the survey conducted by US National Center for Health Statistics, alcohol remains the most "popular" intoxicant among observed groups. The use of alcohol by the survey group, along with cigarettes, cocaine, and (for the most...

The Global Burden of Non-Communicable Disease

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill about 40 million people annually. Comprising chronic lung diseases, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, NCDs are the result of a characteristic Western, predominantly urban lifestyle and negative environmental factors. Almost three-quarters of global NCD deaths arise from low or middle income countries, where the incidence of NCDs is on the rise. - World Economic Forum The major common lifestyle risk factors of non-communicable diseases are physical inactivity, air pollution, obesity, smoking, and drinking. Insufficient physical...

The Global Economic Cost of Physical Inactivity

Sedentary behavior has become increasingly common in modern society, resulting in a general decrease of physical activity worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement including activities undertaken during leisure, work, home-based activities, and engaging in recreational pursuits. Increased urbanization, which generally increases air pollution, decreases the number of parks and sidewalks, and spurs high-density traffic, often discourages participation in physical activity. This is particularly concerning given that insufficient...