The top 20 pharma companies by 2020 revenue

COVID Economy
While the pandemic brought confusion in 2020, many top drugmakers played a role in responding.

The pharma industry quickly took center stage when COVID-19 caught the world off guard early last year. As 2020 progressed, drugmakers battled the coronavirus on one hand and on the other, contended with pandemic disruptions—to manufacturing, marketing, R&D and revenue alike. 

And while the world now has developed drugs and vaccines against COVID-19, the crisis isn't over. Drug and vaccine makers are flexing their supply chains and production muscles to help the globe beat back the pandemic—and still scouting for new treatments and vaccines, too.

Here, Fierce Pharma ranks the top 20 drugmakers by global revenues in 2020. Despite challenges associated with the pandemic, the companies mostly met their financial expectations last year as medicines kept reaching patients, despite lockdowns and social distancing. Plus, the pandemic offered a chance for the industry to rehab its public image issue.

While the top 20 list isn't markedly different from year to year—the world's biggest pharma companies don't change often—astute pharma watchers may see some noticeable differences in the 2020 rankings from last year's report.

RELATED: In wake of biopharma mega buyouts, FTC kicks off review of industry's dealmaking

For instance, Pfizer fell 5 spots to No. 8 as it completed its deal to spin off its Upjohn business. AbbVie gained 3 positions and reached the top 5 thanks to its Allergan buy. Allergan, the No. 19 company in 2019, is no longer on the list. BMS, after buying Celgene, gained 4 spots to reach No. 7.

Such is the way pharma's megamergers reshape the industry. Moving forward, those deals could face increased scrutiny thanks to a newly unveiled FTC initiative.

This year's only new entrant is No. 20 Astellas. The company generated more than $11 billion in 2020, enough to rank it above other midsize pharma companies such as Regeneron, Vertex and Alexion.

RELATED: Moderna could join top vaccine players by sales this year, CEO says

And the 2021 rankings will likely bring more changes. Companies with successful COVID-19 drugs and vaccines are in line for major revenue boosts, including Pfizer and its $15 billion revenue projection for its BioNTech-partnered vaccine.

Moderna, for its part, has said it could earn more than $11 billion from its COVID-19 vaccine. The company only markets one product right now, but could reach the top 20 rankings in 2021 based on the success of that shot alone.

Enjoy reading the profiles and please be in touch with any feedback or ideas for future special reports. --Eric Sagonowsky (email)