Although the healthcare industry has advanced tremendously in the last two decades, the number of people becoming diseased is not decreasing. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the pharmaceutical industry is at $625 billion in the United States alone. While there are 451 pharmaceutical companies in the United States, only 10 of them make up over 75% of annual revenue in this industry.
Johnson & Johnson
Recognized as one of the leading brands in childcare products, Johnson & Johnson has been in business for over 130 years, and presently, they are the top-ranking pharmaceutical company, not just in the United States but in the entire world. This goliath of a company was established in 1886; however, the story of its founders goes even further in the past. Initially, one of the co-founders, Robert Wood Johnson, launched a company called Seabury & Johnson in 1873, selling medicated plasters with his business partner George Seabury, a pharmacist. While it started great, this business was short-lived and Robert Wood Johnson parted ways with George Seabury in 1885. Following this, he joined his brothers, James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson, in 1886. During this period, this family-owned business created surgical dressings that were ready-to-use, along with selling household products and medical guides. Unsurprisingly, Robert Wood Johnson became the first president of the company. Interestingly, the original logo was decided as his signature. Although this company began its journey with a total number of 14 employees, presently, there are over 130,000 employees working for them across the world. Additionally, the three-quarter sales figures for 2020 of Johnson & Johnson were over $60 billion. As Johnson & Johnson grew larger, it started to purchase other pharmaceutical companies, such as Janssen Pharmaceuticals, DePuy Synthes, and many more.
Headquarters: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Popular Products: Johnson’s Baby Powder and Band-Aid
While Johnson & Johnson has a history of 130 years, Pfizer was founded over 30 years before it in 1849 by two German cousins, Charles Pfizer and Charles F. Erhart. Interestingly, both of them migrated to the United States in 1848 and established one of the most profitable pharmaceutical companies in the world. Although the production of citric acid in the 1880s established Pfizer for what it is today, the company found financial stability through the production of santonin, a type of medicine that was used in the treatment of various conditions caused by parasites. By the end of the 19th century, Pfizer was generating $3 million annually, which by today’s standard is equivalent to $85 million. Shortly afterward, the first World War began, and the production of citric acid was slowing down significantly because of the shortage of calcium citrate. To tackle this situation, researchers at Pfizer started working with a certain type of fungus that led to the production of penicillin, one of the most used antibiotics during that time. Throughout the years, Pfizer has developed some of the most used products. Surprisingly, Pfizer’s revenue for 2020 was $40 billion, but it made double the revenue in 2021 at $81 billion.
Headquarters: New York City, New York
Popular Products: Viagra, Zoloft, and Lipitor
Merck & Co.
This company began its journey as a pharmacy in 1668; however, it transitioned into a pharmaceutical company in 1827, when Merck Group began producing morphine. It is also considered one of the first pharmaceuticals to have perfected the art of extracting morphine from opium, and interestingly, they also introduced cocaine, which at the time was used as an energy booster. Similar to Pfizer, it was founded by the Merck family, who migrated from Germany. The name Merck & Co. was established in 1891 by George Merck, who began the process of supplying chemicals to other manufacturers in New York. In the year 1936, Merck & Co. first synthesized vitamin B1, and thanks to this breakthrough, the production of other synthetic vitamins were initiated. One of the most famous statements of the Merck family was uttered by George W. Merck at the Medical College of Virginia, where he said, “We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear.” Presently, Merck & Co. produces some of the most essential medicines, along with drugs used in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, and many other viral diseases. Merck & Co. generated a revenue of $48.7 billion in 2021.
Headquarters: Kenilworth, New Jersey
Popular Product: Keytruda
Unlike other companies on the list that are at least 2 decades old, AbbVie only came into existence in October 2011, but the official production of medicines began in 2013. Originally, Abbott Laboratories was the company that not only researched but also produced medicines; however, the CEO of Abbott Laboratories stated that this decision was taken to provide world-class products efficiently, and it can only be done if both businesses are separated. Investors were concerned as to what direction the company would go after the separation, but as the company began to produce and sell products, they were happy with this decision. Presently, AbbVie is responsible for the production of research-based drugs in the field of immunology, oncology, neuroscience, eye care, virology, and women’s health. They have facilities in 170 countries with 48,000 employees across the world. Despite it not even being a decade-old, AbbVie’s revenue for 2021 was listed as $56 billion.
Headquarters: North Chicago, Illinois
Popular Products: Humira, Imbruvica, and Mavyret
Bristol Myers Squibb
Edward Robinson Squibb was the founder of Squibb corporation. He launched this corporation in 1858, and Edward Squibb was a strong advocate of quality in the production of medicines. He even went to American Medical Association to raise the standards of purity in the manufacturing process; however, he failed to convince them. This led Edward Squibb to publish his own list of papers regarding drug information named Materia Medica. Despite the efforts of Edward Squibb, his company was sold to Lowell M. Palmer and Theodore Weicker in 1905 by his sons. Following the purchase, the Squibb corporation became one of the largest suppliers of medical kits to soldiers during the American Civil War. Finally, in 1989, Bristol-Myers Corporation merged with the Squibb corporation, resulting in Bristol Myers Squibb. Now, Bristol Myers Squibb is one of the leading pharmaceuticals to research and produce drugs used in the treatment of cancer, in addition to producing medicines for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and neurological disorders. Bristol Myers Squibb has seen significant growth in their profits from 2019, as they grew from $26 billion to $42 billion and $46 billion in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Headquarters: New York City, New York
Popular Products: Eliquis, Opdivo, and Revlimid
This company was established in 1888 by a practicing physician and drug-store owner, Wallace Abbott, and it was originally known as Abbott Alkaloidal Company. Wallace Abbott was excellent in the production of alkaloid-based medicines such as morphine, quinine, strychnine, and codeine. While the original location of this company was in Ravenswood, it was later moved to North Chicago in 1922. Although this company was established because of Wallace Abbott’s passion for alkaloids, it later became one of the largest groups of pharmaceuticals that produced all types of medicines. Additionally, it owns Dainippon Pharmaceutical, Knoll, and Ross Laboratories. Abbott laboratories launched their facilities in India, Pakistan, and Japan under different names, but all of them have been extremely successful. However, since the establishment of AbbVie, Abbott no longer produces drugs used to treat diseases; however, they manufacture nutrition products for both adults and children. Additionally, they sell medical devices used in the assessment of various diseases. Interestingly, despite Abbott being the original company, it made less profit than AbbVie at $43 billion in 2021.
Headquarters: Abbott Park, Illinois
Popular Products: Pedialyte, Similac, Ensure
Originally known as Applied Molecular Genetics Inc, this company was founded by William K. Bowes and his medical advisory board in 1980. Unlike other pharmaceuticals that put a strong emphasis on the synthetic production of medicines, Amgen is a biopharmaceutical, i.e., they manufacture drugs using chemicals that are extracted from naturally occurring substances or are semi-synthesized. Amgen has always been big on experiments. Their first three years comprise experiments such as extracting oil from sediment rocks, making chickens grow faster, creating indigo dye for bacteria, and many more. While not all of their experiments were successful, their efforts to create something new landed them on the cover page of Science Magazine. Presently, Amgen has a wide array of products to deal with different disorders; however, their Neulasta and Enbrel, an immunostimulator and tumor necrosis factor blocker, respectively, are their largest selling products after 2018. Interestingly, the company first hit the $1 billion mark in 1992, thanks to the sales of Epogen and Neupogen. As for their latest profit figures, Amgen made $26 billion in 2021.
Headquarters: Thousand Oaks, California
Popular Products: Enbrel and Neulasta
This is also a relatively new company in the world of pharmaceuticals, as it was established in 1987 by Michael L. Riordan. The original name for this company was decided as Oligogen because the initial focus of the company was to produce small strands of DNA, known as oligomers, for antisense therapy. Another reason why the company was called Oligogen was that the name Gilead was already trademarked by a nonprofitable organization in California. After some years of legal clearance and donating $1,000 to this organization, its name was changed to Gilead Sciences. For the first decade, the company barely made any profit; however, its first financial breakthrough was arriving soon, as they had already started developing antiviral therapeutics in 1991. In the early 2000s, the company shifted its strategy to strictly producing and selling antiviral products. Although it was a gamble, it proved highly beneficial, as their antiviral products are largely used by healthcare facilities to treat HIV, hepatitis B, and influenza. While the profit of Gilead Sciences for 2020 was $17 billion, due to the high demand for antiviral products, they made $27 billion in 2021.
Headquarters: Foster City, California
Popular Product: Veklury
Eli Lilly and Company
Eli Lilly and Company was founded by Colonel Eli Lilly, who was a pharmacist and a chemist, along with being a soldier. Eli worked at many drugstores in Indiana, and after gaining some experience, he also became a partner of two drug stores in Indiana; however, Eli dissolved both partnerships shortly afterwards. He invested his savings into opening a pharmaceutical company in 1876 and named it Eli Lilly and Company. In his first year, he managed to make a profit of $4,470, and just three years after that, the sales figure had already reached $48,00. The very first medicine ever produced by this company was quinine, a widely used drug in the treatment of malaria; however, the reason behind their rapidly increasing sales was Eli’s innovations. He came up with gelatin-coated and fruit flavorings for the pills, which made them easier to swallow. Additionally, Eli Lilly and Company was also the first pharmaceutical that developed human insulin and mass-produced polio vaccine. Currently, psychiatric medications are their largest selling products. Also, Eli Lilly and Company is at $17 billion.
Headquarters: Indianapolis, Indiana
Popular Products: Trulicity and Humalog
Biogen was originally a Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company that was established in 1987 by a group of biologists, including Phillip Allen Sharp and Walter Gilbert, two American biologists honored with the Nobel prize. The original name for the company was decided as Biotechnology Geneva. Later in 2003, Biogen signed a merger with IDEC Pharmaceuticals, which is a California-based company, while simultaneously launching a new manufacturing facility in Hillerød, Denmark. Although Biogen also produces drugs that are used in the treatment of cancer, their top-selling products are for neurological diseases. Biogen generated $10 billion in 2020.
Headquarters: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Popular Product: Spinraza