Currently, the size of the global pharmaceutical market is around 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars. The range of pharma products varies from antibiotics which haven’t changed much in almost a century to the latest generation of gene therapies and individually tailored treatments. The increasing use of big data and artificial intelligence in researching diseases and developing new drugs massively accelerates the pace of this industry.
Especially in 2020-2021, one can say that the whole world was watching the pharmaceutical industry. This was, of course, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the call for safe and effective vaccines and treatments to get back to normal life. Medical biotech companies like BioNTech from Germany and U.S.-based Moderna, previously mostly unknown to the broader public, were and still are in the midst of global interest, underpinning the important role of this technology- and innovation-driven industry.
The pharmaceutical industry is seen as one of the more crisis-proof sectors. Today a roughly 1.5 trillion market, the revenue development has not shown any major drops during the last two decades. The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic did not hurt the industry too much. However, clinical trial process changes, regulatory questions, ethical discussions, and the accessibility of medicines will be of increased importance in the long run.
There are several ways to segment the pharmaceutical market. Frequently used is the distinction between prescription drugs and non-prescription drugs (over-the-counter). Drugs can also be divided into products derived from chemicals and products which enhance biotechnology (biologics). When categorizing the industry by therapeutic areas, the top revenue-generating segments are oncology, immunology, and diabetes.
Just as many other industries, the pharma industry is in a steady process of innovation and reshaping. Buying knowledge through M&A activities, outsourcing of research, as well as medical and technologic breakthroughs are just some of the key developments. We see more and more companies involved in personalized treatments and developing therapies for patients with rare diseases. Big data crunching, machine learning, and real word evidence are becoming new pillars of research and development.
In general, there is not much fluctuation among the leading pharmaceutical companies. The biggest players based on pharmaceutical revenue are Pfizer, AbbVie, and Johnson & Johnson – all of which are American – and the two Swiss giants Roche and Novartis. Due to the huge revenues through its COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, Pfizer is again the global leader, overtaking both Swiss rivals in 2021.
Almost half of the world's pharmaceutical revenues are generated in the United States. With its life science and technology hubs that guarantee innovation and a market that is paying the highest drug prices worldwide, this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, China has suffered a loss of momentum. The world’s second-largest pharmaceutical market saw regular double-digit growth until the mid-2010s, but that has since dropped.
The pharmaceutical industry is responsible for the development, production, and marketing of drugs used for various types of prevention measures, treatments, and therapies. Major aims of pharmaceutical products are to cure a medical condition, delay its onset, or reduce the symptoms. Many of the larger pharmaceutical companies are not only pure drug manufacturers, but are also involved, for example, in the production of medical devices or consumer health products. Within the pharmaceutical landscape, smaller biotechnology drug companies represent the most innovative part of the industry. Drug manufacturers are often in cooperation with academic sites where an important part of the initial research is carried out.