Top 50 pharmaceutical companies - Rx sales and R&D spending 2019

The top 50 pharmaceutical companies by prescription sales in 2019 – and their research and development (R&D) spending – included big name companies such as Pfizer, Novartis, and Merck &Co. During that year, Roche's Rx sales were approximately 48.3 billion dollars. Thus, in that year Swiss pharma giant Roche was both the largest pharmaceutical company based on pure pharma revenue worldwide and the top pharmaceutical company based on R&D spending. Roche spent 10.3 billion U.S. dollars on R&D in that year.

Pharmaceutical R&D spending

Research and development in the pharmaceutical industry involves the identification and development of compounds used to make new drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has the largest percentage of spending attributable to R&D among all industries. Research and development spending in the pharmaceutical industry around the world is increasing over time. However, there have been variations in the growth of research and development spending with a significant decline in 2012 and an increase in 2016.

New pharmaceutical products

The goal of R&D is to produce new drugs and compounds. Globally, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry created the largest number of new drugs and compounds between 2014 and 2018, followed by Europe. Among U.S. pharmaceutical companies, there are various levels of success for new drugs depending on the phase of development. The data shows that between phase I and II alone, already over one third of all drugs are failing. Overall, the probability that a new drug makes it from phase I to approval is less than ten percent.

Top 50 global pharmaceutical companies by prescription sales and R&D spending in 2019

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Release date

June 2020



Survey time period


Supplementary notes

No value means no data available. "0" in fact means larger than 0 and smaller than 0,01.

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