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Top pharma companies worldwide 2020, by size of R&D pipeline

When it comes to the development of new drugs in 2020, Swiss-based company Novartis is expected to be the leader among the global top pharmaceutical companies. With some 222 products in the 2020 R&D pipeline, Novartis leads the ranking, closely followed by Japanese company Takeda and U.S.-based Bristol-Myers Squibb. Among the global top 10 companies based on products in the pipeline, four are from the United States. In 2018, research and development spending in the pharmaceutical industry stood at 179 billion U.S. dollars worldwide.

What is pharmaceutical R&D about?

Pharmaceutical research and development involves all steps of discovering and developing a new drug: from the initial research of disease processes and compound testing to pre-clinical and all clinical trial stages. At a certain point in this process - usually during the pre-clinical phase – a governmental authority is involved to overview, regulate, and eventually approve the product. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), headquartered in White Oaks, Maryland, is the principal agency associated with these processes.

Innovation is the key

More than most other industries, pharmaceutical companies are under pressure to develop new, innovative products. Time-limited patent protection of their products and the following threat of a sales slump through generic and biosimilar competition are the major reasons. Accordingly, drug manufacturers must invest significant amounts into research and development. Compared to other industries, the pharmaceutical sector has by far the highest R&D expenditures per employee. With the increasing complexity of pharmaceutical R&D over the last two decades, the number of research collaborations is also clearly on the rise.

Top 10 pharmaceutical companies worldwide by size of R&D pipeline in 2020*

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Release date

April 2020



Survey time period

as of January 2020

Supplementary notes

* Projected as of January 2020.

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Statistics on "Eli Lilly"

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