Sanofi overtakes Pfizer as world’s biggest drug company


Sanofi is expected to overthrow Pfizer’s nine-year reign as the world’s biggest drug maker, according to new research.

The French pharmaceutical company is expected to retain the top spot until at least 2016, with Pfizer falling to third place behind Novartis due to the loss of Lipitor’s US patent protection, according to EvaluatePharma (see figure one).

The report says that Sanofi’s numerous acquisitions over the last decade have contributed largely to the company’s success, gaining $20 billion after it bought out Genzyme.

Sanofi’s mergers over the last decade have contributed a great deal to its current position, starting with its $30 billion deal with Synthélabo in 1999.

It is expected that the company will retain its top position until at least 2016, mainly thanks to sales of enzyme replacement therapies through its acquisition of Genzyme.

Also, the company’s addition of Cerezyme and Myozyme blockbuster drugs will help fill the gap left by Lovenox, Taxotere, and Plavix, which loses US patent protection in 2012.

Pfizer’s $68 billion buyout of Wyeth in 2009 helped fill the gap left by Lipitor, but it will be difficult to replace the drug’s global sales figure of $13.4 billion seen in 2008, which set the record as the biggest selling medicine.

Following its loss of US patent protection in November 2011, Lipitor sales are estimated to shrink to $2 billion by 2016.

However, pipeline products such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) pills tofacitinib and Eliquis are expected to boost Pfizer’s drug sales after 2016, which will help retain the company’s position in the top-five pharmaceutical companies.

Merck’s four-year outlook is seen as bleak despite its takeover of Schering-Plough for $41 billion in 2009, with only 1% annual sales growth predicted, conceding to European companies GlaxoSmithKline and Roche to overtake the company.

EvaluatePharma predicts that Johnson & Johnson’s recent pipeline successes will benefit the company in the coming years, despite its drugs arm being substantially smaller than the five biggest pharma companies.

It is thought that Novartis will be Sanofi’s closest competition over the next few years, with strong sales growth from Gilenya and Tasigna due to Diovan’s loss of patent protection next year.

Figure 1:

World's top 15 pharmaceutical companies