The World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies

It is no secret that the pharmaceutical industry is among the most powerful, affluent, and influential ones on Earth. As human knowledge grows exponentially in all known subjects, medicine remains a top field where return on investment is lucrative and manifold.

Whether one counts rewards in millions earned or lives saved, the pharmaceutical industry has very much to offer. Here is a rundown of the top global players who deal in human life, health, and happiness.


Founded as a fine-chemicals business by a couple of Brooklyn-based German entrepreneurs back in 1849, Pfizer saw its riches grow exponentially thanks to demand for tartaric and citric acid as well as painkillers and preservatives in the 1860s and beyond. Skip forward to today, and you will find Pfizer has become a giant international conglomerate which runs the largest research facility for the discovery of new drugs, spearheads numerous medical relief programs in the US and abroad, and continues acquiring promising smaller companies, sometimes aggressively, in an attempt to stay on the top. Its recent efforts revolve around cancer medication.


Swiss-based international corporation Novartis has been breathing down Pfizer’s neck for a couple of years now and remained a close second in terms of revenue, despite demonstrable growth in 2013. Its roots go back to the 18th century when its parent companies Geigy and Sandoz were founded. The two chemical businesses eventually merged in 1996 to form Novartis, which still maintains almost half of its business operations in Europe. The brunt of the R&D effort is concentrated in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research are headquartered. The company’s latest offerings focus on Alzheimer’s and other neuropathological ailments.


In third place comes Roche, another Swiss pharmaceutical heavyweight based in Basel. The company takes pride in its focus on personalised healthcare which pairs pharmaceuticals development with diagnostics and places an emphasis on biotech. Biopharmaceuticals allow Roche to offer tailor-made therapies and have helped the company rise to the top of the cancer-battling game. In vitro diagnostics is another one of the Swiss giant’s strong suits. During the first major international outbreak of bird flu in 2005, Roche was the only company authorised to produce and sell Oseltamivir, the reliable antiviral used to treat the disease so far. Keeping a close eye on innovation, Roche does not stray from its vision and its commitment to personalised healthcare, and it has been enjoying a steady growth which promises to cement it in the top 3.