Sanofi to lead pharmaceutical sales in 2012


Will replace Pfizer in top spot, predicts EvaluatePharma

After nine years as the world’s biggest drugmaker, Pfizer will be replaced in top place in 2012 by Sanofi.

This is the conclusion made by consensus sales forecasts carried out by EvaluatePharma.

The research firm’s report says French drugmaker Sanofi will retain the top spot until at least 2016, with Pfizer dropping to third place, behind Novartis, following patent expiries on its cholesterol blockbuster drug Lipitor.

EvaluatePharma says Sanofi has shot up the rankings over the last decade largely through acquisition, culminating in its $20bn purchase of US biotechnology specialist Genzyme.

Although Pfizer’s US$68bn acquisition of Wyeth in 2009 helped alleviate the pain of the impending loss of Lipitor, the loss of US patent protection this month (November) means that sales will fall from $13.4bn in 2008 to $2bn by 2016, according to the sales forecasts.

Analysts expect Pfizer’s drug sales to start growing again in 2016, driven by rheumatoid arthritis drug tofacitinib and Eliquis, the blood thinner partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

In spite of buying Schering-Plough for $41bn in 2009, Merck & Co will struggle to expand its drugs business over the next four years, with below average 1% annual sales growth predicted, letting faster growing European drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Roche climb ahead.

Johnson & Johnson (8th position in 2012) is expected to benefit from a series of recent pipeline successes although its drugs arm remains substantially smaller than the five biggest pharma companies.

Novartis is expected to be Sanofi's closest challenger over the next few years, with strong sales growth from Gilenya and Tasigna offset by the loss of patent protection for Diovan next year.

A notable entrant to the top ten in 2012 will be Teva. The Israeli generics giant is predicted to post strong 7% annual sales growth over the period with both copycat and branded drug segments expanding.

Takeda represents the only non-Western contender in the top 15.

Danish diabetes specialist Novo Nordisk, meanwhile, is predicted to have fastest growing drug sales over the period of 9% a year until 2016.