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Top pharmaceutical drugs - Statistics & Facts

The global pharmaceutical market is to a large degree driven by its top pharmaceutical products. The same is true for the leading pharmaceutical companies, which generate a large share of their revenue from their top drug brands. For example, Pfizer makes over 13 billion U.S. dollars with its top three pharmaceutical drugs, or around 38 percent of its total revenue. Bristol Myers Squibb generates more than two thirds of its revenues from its top three products.

The biggest: Humira and Lipitor

In 2020, AbbVie's rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira was the world’s top medication based on revenue. Humira generated more than 20 billion U.S. dollars of revenue worldwide. Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor was by far the top global drug for years, but yielded its position due to heavy losses caused by patent expiration. In the time of patent loss, between 2011 and 2012, Pfizer’s revenue through Lipitor fell by some 60 percent. Both, Humira and Lipitor, are the leading drugs by lifetime sales, and will probably keep this position for a while.

Performance on the largest market is essential

In the U.S., AbbVie’s Humira was also the top drug based on revenue in recent years. The drug generates the overwhelming part of its revenues in the United States where prices for drugs are much higher. Due to their significant lower prices, generics are always the top-selling pharmaceutical products when measured by dispensed prescriptions. In 2019, there were some 116 million prescriptions for cholesterol lowering drug atorvastatin – the generic version of above-mentioned Lipitor - in the United States alone.

A new generation of blockbusters

Biotechnology is becoming more and more the leading technology within the biopharmaceutical industry. Five out of the ten most revenue-generating drugs worldwide already are biotech-derived. The leading two drugs based on sales are both biotech: Humira and Keytruda. Although not a drug in the classic sense, biotech-derived mRNA-vaccine Comirnaty will probably become the best-selling pharmaceutical product of all times in 2021. The COVID-19 vaccine was developed in cooperation of German-based BioNTech and U.S. giant Pfizer.


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