Biogen, Shire, Novo top pharma ranking of shareholder value

You can stack up pharma companies in dozens of ways--by revenues, by new drug approvals, by R&D budgets, by sales growth, by CEO pay. We've engaged in plenty of that here at FiercePharma. For yet another ranking method, take a look at Pharm Exec's latest industry audit, which draws on eight separate tallies for its grand-prize ratings.

We won't go into the nitty-gritty of the survey's methodology--check out the audit itself for that--but we will pass along some of the highlights. And what this year's intelligence illustrates, in a variety of numerical terms, is that specialty drugs lead the way.

Just look at which companies top the champion-of-champions ranking: Biogen Idec ($BIIB), the biotech company with big-selling drugs for multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and pipeline products for MS and other neurological diseases, as well as autoimmune disorders, including RA. It also tops the ranking for gross margin, because these products sell at a premium.

Joining Biogen in the top five are Shire, which specializes in ADHD meds, but is building up in other specialty areas, such as regenerative medicine; and Novo Nordisk, which specializes in diabetes drugs (other lines of business include hemophilia and hormone therapies). Then there's Celgene, which comes in second for gross margin; it specializes in blood-cancer drugs and inflammatory diseases.

The only Big Pharma in that group is Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), though Roche ($RHHBY) comes in 6th. And with the Swiss drugmaker's emphasis on cancer drugs, particularly targeted cancer drugs, it's something of a specialist, too.

Indeed, if you check out all eight of the audit's metrics, Big Pharma is conspicuously absent from the top tier in several of them. Gross margin, shareholder value, enterprise value-to-sales, to name a few. The ratings for sheer scale--such as sales and enterprise value--are the only ones where Big Pharma is also the best.

- read the Pharm Exec audit