7. GlaxoSmithKline

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After taking heat for its decision to trade away its oncology assets and focus on traditionally low-margin vaccines and consumer health, GlaxoSmithKline gave doubters a reason to reconsider in 2016.

7. GlaxoSmithKline
Headquarters: Brentford, U.K.
2016 revenues: £27.889 billion (about $34.79 billion)
2015 revenues: £23.923 billion (about $29.84 billion) 

After taking plenty of heat for its decision to trade away its oncology assets to Novartis and bulk up on traditionally low-margin vaccines and consumer health, Glaxo may have felt vindicated in 2016.

For one, a respiratory unit that looked like it wouldn’t be able to keep pharma afloat—particularly once Advair copies hit—finally picked up the pace, with respiratory sales managing to grow 2% despite Advair’s decline. That performance, combined with continued standout showings from HIV meds Tivicay and Triumeq—the pair posted 82% growth in 2016—helped Glaxo’s pharma unit grow by 3% to £16.1 billion.

And with a strategy centering on increasing volume in vaccines and consumer health, GSK grew sales in both of those segments, too. On the vaccines side, meningitis sales that swelled by 96% and flu vaccines sales that expanded by 38% helped the unit leap 14% to £4.6 billion.

The OTC division, for its part, posted 9% growth, hitting the £7.2 billion sales mark. GSK attributed the jump to “a number of power brands,” including Sensodyne, Voltaren and Panadol.

The real test for Glaxo will come this year, though, when the company expects long-awaited Advair copies to finally hit. If a knockoff arrives midyear, GSK predicts its star seller will bring in just £1 billion in sales—far below the £1.83 billion it managed in 2016.

GSK has already done what it can in advance to ease the blow, including striking 20%  discounts with some payers that'll last through the rest of this year and, in some cases, next year. Its newer respiratory meds—including slow starters Breo and Anoro—have finally picked up the pace, too, together generating enough in sales to offset Advair's decline for the first time in Q2.

That's not to say the company won't suffer, though. In the midyear generic arrival scenario, Glaxo’s predicting core earnings to come in flat or decline by a single-digit percentage.

And that'll be just one test incoming CEO Emma Walmsley will face when she officially takes the reins at the end of March. She'll also have to choose which assets to pursue in the clinic outside of respiratory and HIV. “We have a lot of science” in areas including cardiovascular and gene therapy programs, Glaxo chief strategy officer David Redfern said in an interview earlier this year, noting that “what choices we make and when over the next few years is a big question.”

7. GlaxoSmithKline