Top pharmaceutical R&D projects based on net present value May 2019

Vertex’s triple combination project was the most valuable research and development project in the pharmaceutical industry worldwide, based on its net present value (NPV) of almost 20 billion U.S. dollars, as of May 2019.

Global R&D spending

In 2018, global pharmaceutical industry expenditures for research and development amounted to just under 180 billion U.S. dollars. Total global R&D expenditures have been increasing with each consecutive year since 2012, reaching over 200 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. Some of 2018’s leading pharmaceutical companies, in terms of R&D spending, included Roche, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis. Each of these companies invested over eight billion U.S. dollars that year. In terms of prescription sales, however, Pfizer led the list with over 45 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of Rx sales.


Pfizer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporations. Based in New York City, the American company generates a considerable amount of its revenue in the United States. In 2018, Pfizer earned just over 25 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of revenue in its American submarket, and close to 17 billion in other emerging markets.

Selected top pharmaceutical R&D projects based on net present value (NPV) as of May 2019

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Release date

June 2019



Survey time period

as of May 2019

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