Gleevec - $1.51 billion


Company: Novartis
2011 sales: $1.51 billion
Developer: Novartis
FDA approvals: Chronic myelogenous leukemia, 2011; gastrointestinal stromal tumors, 2002; Philadelphia-chromosome positive acute lymphocytic leukemia, 2006; dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, 2006; certain myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative diseases, 2006; hypereosinophilic syndrome/chronic eosinophilic leukemia, 2006; aggressive systemic mastocytosis, 2006; adjuvant GIST treatment, 2012

Gleevec is one of the revolutionary drugs that has transformed some blood cancers into chronic illnesses rather than death sentences. According to one study cited in Science Life, 5-year survival rates for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia was 30% before Gleevec. After Gleevec, 89% of patients hit that target.

The story of Gleevec's development has been told, in detail, many times. We won't go into it here (if you're interested in the details, check out this article from Nature.. What we will tell you is that the scientists involved--including researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Oregon Health & Science University, as well as Novartis ($NVS)--won the prestigious Lasker Award for their achievement.

Right now, Gleevec, which is sold as Glivec in some countries, is in the middle of a big intellectual property battle in India. The Indian government has refused to grant a patent to Novartis for the drug, and for several years now, Novartis has been fighting that decision. It filed an appeal recently, but that's still pending.


Gleevec - $1.51 billion