Who's getting the most out of their R&D engine? Pharma's top 11, ranked

Pharma companies have been busy as ever launching new drugs. While some new meds are worth tens of billions of dollars, others have flopped. (cagkansayin/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Drugmakers have myriad tools in their arsenal when looking to grow sales. They can acquire marketed drugs, raise prices or focus on growing the reach of their existing medicines. But it's often new drug approvals that reign supreme and ultimately prove the worth of a company's development engine. 

Using data generated by Evaluate Pharma and covered in a recent Evaluate Vantage report, the team at Fierce Pharma took a close look at the recent approvals for 11 of the world's biggest drugmakers by revenue. Specifically, we're highlighting the dollar value of the industry's launches from the last five years and analyzing how the new meds fit into each company's overall portfolio.

Taking a quick glance at Evaluate's data, Novartis came out on top with the most new drug approvals overall: The Swiss Pharma has 12 launches under its belt, versus Bristol Myers Squibb on the low-end with just three, all of which came courtesy of its Celgene buyout. 

Still, launch volume doesn't necessarily track with value as new meds often fail to live up to expectations.

On the value metric, the crown goes to Roche, which has eight launches to its name in the last five years worth a whopping $99.78 billion. Others with even fewer launches, such as AbbVie and AstraZeneca—each with five—boast similarly impressive net present values, the Evaluate data show.

For the report's rankings, we've ordered the companies by the total value of their newly approved drugs.

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The Evaluate Pharma analysts were quick to point out that the numbers don't tell the whole story of what's happening behind the scenes at each company. Bristol Myers Squibb, for instance, has likely been focused on expanding the reach of its PD-1 cancer med Opdivo during the five-year stretch covered by this report.

Likewise, Merck's immuno-oncology superstar Keytruda, which is among the hottest drugs in the industry right now, scored its FDA approval before the 2016 cutoff for this report.

Still, it's worthwhile to see how pharma's R&D engines stack up, and where some of the new launches are headed.

The data only captured data on Big Pharma companies with three or more approvals over the past five years. And the Evaluate team only recorded data on products that companies owned at the time of approval. To reach net present value figures, Evaluate incorporated sell-side consensus forecasts and utilized its own proprietary software. 

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Of course, this report offers just one way of looking at things. Some other important caveats? These data do not include COVID-19 vaccines or therapeutics. In the case of Pfizer specifically, its BioNTech-partnered mRNA vaccine is on its way to becoming the world's top-selling drug this year. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline's new approval count includes two new HIV treatments it shares in a joint venture with ViiV Healthcare. 

Check out our report for the skinny on just how much value the industry's new drugs are delivering. As always, we hope you enjoy it and invite you to reach out with any questions or comments. -- Fraiser Kansteiner (email)

Who's getting the most out of their R&D engine? Pharma's top 11, ranked