Roche to beat Novartis, Pfizer to pharma throne by 2022 as industry passes $1T mark

Roche, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is expected to surge to the No. 1 spot in total prescription drug sales by 2022, according to a new report.

Crosstown rivals Novartis ($NVS) and Roche ($RHHBY) will be neck and neck for the No. 1 spot in pharma sales till 2022, with Roche ahead by a nose at the finish line, according to a new market analysis. Along the way, a 6.3% annual growth rate industrywide will take global prescription drug sales past the $1 trillion mark.

Roche is forecast to tally $52.6 billion in 2022 prescription drug sales, representing a 4% annual expansion over 2015’s total of $38.7 billion, according to EvaluatePharma’s new World Preview report. Novartis, with 2015 prescription sales of $42.5 billion, will end up with $52.5 billion at the end of the period, missing Roche’s tally by about $100 million. Pfizer ($PFE), Sanofi ($SNY), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) each follow in order, with other big-name players behind them.

But as with all forecasts, this one isn't written in stone. Facing a more serious biosimilar threat than Novartis, Roche could find itself knocked out of the pole position, EP said. Many of the bestselling drugs in the industry, including Roche’s Rituxan and Avastin, are forecast to suffer from biosim competition by 2020.

Overall, the world’s prescription drug industry is expected to ride 6.3% growth through 2022 to $1.12 trillion, up from $741 billion in 2015. That’s as new launches “hopefully take the torch from industry’s superstars, like Harvoni, whose light is now fading,” the report said.

Roche's immuno-oncology therapy Tecentriq is expected to be one of those, by 2022 becoming one of the world's best-selling drugs, EP said. Gilead ($GILD), Biogen ($BIIB) and GlaxoSmithKline are the companies that have performed best on recent launches, the analysts said.

Notably, Celgene ($CELG) and Shire ($SHPG) are expected to post double-digit growth over the period, according to the analysts, expanding sales by an annual clip of 16% and 19%, respectively.

Pfizer led 2015 pharma sales at $43.1 billion, a tally that's now expected to grow to $49.1 billion by 2022, according to EP. Novartis was expected to be the top player by 2020, as of last year's report.

EvaluatePharma sees Roche’s pipeline as the most valuable in the industry, although the Basel-based pharma’s strategy comes with risk. The company’s candidates in multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, haemophilia and macular degeneration help its overall pipeline reach a value of $43.2 billion, far eclipsing Novartis’ pipeline value of $24.1 billion and AstraZeneca’s at $23.2 billion.

Companies behind those in pipeline value are Eli Lilly ($LLY), AbbVie ($ABBV), Pfizer, Sanofi, Celgene, Biogen and J&J, respectively.

In the big picture, following a “spectacular four-year bull run,” the industry’s outlooks are more mixed moving forward, EP said, as pricing pressures take a toll in the U.S. and other “brakes” to growth loom. Among those are biosimilar threats and clinical setbacks. Spending pressures could also hamper sales growth, as healthcare systems struggle with their growing drug bills.

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