11. Eli Lilly

Eli Lilly
A big chunk of Eli Lilly's 2017 growth came from GLP-1 diabetes med Trulicity, the full-year sales of which hit $2.03 billion and represent a 119% jump. (Eli Lilly)

Eli Lilly
2017 revenue: $22.87 billion
2016 revenue: $21.22 billion
Headquarters: Indianapolis, Indiana

The first year new CEO David Ricks ran the show, Eli Lilly posted nearly 8% revenue growth to $22.87 billion, beating the high end of its own guidance of $22.7 billion set in the third-quarter report.

A big chunk of that 2017 growth came from GLP-1 diabetes med Trulicity, the full-year sales of which hit $2.03 billion and represent a 119% jump year over year. The Boehringer Ingelheim-partnered SGLT2 inhibitor Jardiance, another diabetes-fighter, more than doubled its sales for Lilly to $447.5 million. These totals are short of analyst forecasts, but still a big jump in a crowded, newer class of drugs. 

And Lilly pulled this off in an increasingly tough diabetes field. Lilly’s diabetes franchise is in a closely watched market-share battle with Novo Nordisk and its dominant GLP-1 Victoza and newcomer Ozempic (semaglutide). It's also contending with other SGLT2s, and struggling like its fellow diabetes specialists in the pricing-pressured insulin market.

Back in late 2016, Jardiance became the first diabetes med to get an FDA approval for cutting the risk of cardiovascular death. Then last August, Novo’s daily therapy Victoza followed with its own CV benefit nod in three categories: heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death. The competition got even more complicated last December, when Novo’s once-weekly med Ozempic was greenlighted by the FDA. The drug bears head-to-head advantage over Trulicity at delivering better reductions in blood sugar and double the weight loss.

Lilly didn’t seem to be deterred, though. The company is “extremely well prepared for semaglutide’s launch,” diabetes head Enrique Conterno told investors on Lilly’s fourth-quarter conference call.

RELATED: Bring on Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide, Eli Lilly says. We’re ready

Rapid-acting insulin Humalog, Lilly’s top-selling drug, delivered $2.87 billion to the top line, a 3% increase. However, 2018 might be a different story, as Sanofi’s copycat Admelog picked up both U.S. and European approvals last year and has just been made available, and Novo's ultra-fast-acting product, Fiasp, recently rolled onto the market.

Outside of diabetes, Lilly pushed its new immunology drug, Taltz, approved in 2016 to treat psoriasis. For its first full year on the market, the IL-17 inhibitor brought in nearly $600 million worldwide, despite some tough competition. One rival, Pfizer’s Xeljanz, gained a nod in psoriatic arthritis, and Cosentyx, Novartis’ first-in-class rival—an impressive launch in its own right—not only boasts the psoriatic arthritis indication, but a nod in ankylosing spondylitis, too. Not to be outdone for long, the Indianapolis drugmaker won its own approval for active psoriatic arthritis and rolled out positive phase 3 data for an ankylosing spondylitis submission to the FDA.

But Lilly faced some serious challenges in 2017, too. The erectile dysfunction drug Cialis is taking a hit, and as Pfizer’s Viagra lost exclusivity in early December, Cialis’ sales plummeted by 12% in the fourth quarter to $597.4 million. Cialis’ own exclusivity, already extended in a generic settlement, will also fall this September.

And despite the revenue gains, Lilly announced several cutbacks in 2017. The company put 3,500 jobs on the chopping block, shuttered R&D centers in New Jersey and Shanghai and offloaded six (or two-thirds) of its midphase oncology assets.

Going ahead, Lilly plans to steer clear of the “pile-on effect” in some hot markets, potentially looking to kill off more R&D programs. Expecting a cash influx as a result of tax reform, Lilly is also looking for deal opportunities, aiming to bolster its presence in oncology, immunology and diabetes via in-licensing or outright acquisitions.

11. Eli Lilly