In an era defined by groundbreaking medical discoveries and unprecedented advancements in healthcare, the pharmaceutical industry stands at the forefront of innovation. Over the past decade, this dynamic sector has witnessed exponential growth, fueled by a relentless pursuit of life-changing treatments and therapies. The COVID-19 pandemic served as a stark reminder of the critical role played by the biggest pharmaceutical companies in safeguarding global health.

For business owners, entrepreneurs, and aspiring industry leaders, grasping the pharmaceutical market’s pulse isn’t just beneficial—it’s crucial. In this article, our experts at Business2Community have analyzed the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to uncover their stories and comprehend the factors contributing to their remarkable market valuations

The World’s Largest Pharmaceutical Companies in the World

Pharmaceutical giants epitomize innovation and substantial value, collectively commanding a market capitalization of $6 trillion. Among their notable financial contributions, the largest pharma companies in the world are responsible for ushering in revolutionary advancements, saving lives, and propelling research forward. Let’s dive into the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies and take a closer look at who’s dominating the market:

1. Eli Lilly – $733 billion

Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies by Market Capitalization Eli Lily

Eli Lilly holds the top position as the leading pharmaceutical company in terms of market capitalization in 2024, exceeding $700 billion. Additionally, it ranks as the 9th most valuable company globally based on market capitalization.

Eli Lilly spends an average of $2.6 billion and takes approximately 10 years from discovery to patient for the development of a new drug.

The American pharmaceutical company conducts clinical research in over 55 countries, with R&D facilities and manufacturing plants in seven countries each. Their products are widely marketed, reaching approximately 110 countries around the world.

For decades, Eli Lilly has maintained a prominent position in the pharmaceutical industry, with a specialization in diabetic medication.

In 2023, diabetes treatments Trulicity and Mounjardo emerged as the top-performing drugs in Eli Lilly’s expansive product portfolio. These medications alone generated combined sales exceeding $12 billion, making a significant contribution to the company’s total revenue of $34.1 billion for the year.

Eli Lily List of Drugs

This success is not surprising, considering Eli Lilly’s pioneering role in diabetes treatment. In 1923, Lilly began producing diabetes medication, introducing Iletin ® (animal-sourced insulin) as the world’s first commercially available insulin product.

Insulin Eli Lily

This marked a revolutionary breakthrough in diabetes treatment, addressing a previously fatal disease with no effective options. Later, in 1982, Eli Lilly became the first company to produce and sell biosynthetic human insulin, further solidifying its leadership in diabetic medication.

Since its foundation, Eli Lilly has advanced into other various fields, including neuroscience, immunology, cancer, and obesity treatment. As of 2024, Eli Lilly distributes a total of 19 drugs.

In November 2023, the FDA approved Eli Lilly’s new chronic weight loss drug. Zepbound™ was introduced to the US market a month later in doses ranging from 2.5 mg to 15 mg.

Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies' Zepbound Pen

Analysts predict that Eli Lilly & Co. 2024 sales will be driven by Zepbound which is poised to become the best-selling drug ever. Since its launch in December 2023, Zepbound generated $176 million in Q4 sales.

Consequently, Lilly’s shares have surged, propelling the company’s market value to an industry-leading $700 + billion. As per the NASDAQ, the weight loss drug could generate nearly $1 billion in sales within its first year of release.

Company Name Eli Lilly and Company
Founder Colonel Eli Lilly
Founding Date 1876
Headquarters Indianapolis, Indiana, US
Employees 45,000
Focus Areas Diabetes, cancer, neurology, obesity management

2. Novo Nordisk – $552 billion

Headquarters Denmark

As of February 2024, Novo Nordisk holds a market cap of $ 550 billion, making it the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical company.

Moreover, Novo Nordisk has firmly established itself as a powerhouse in Europe, holding the prestigious title of Europe’s most valuable company by market share.

The Danish multinational company operates in two main segments: diabetes and obesity care and rare diseases.

Novo Nordisk emerged in 1922 from a joint venture between two Danish pharmaceutical companies specializing in insulin production, Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium and Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium. Subsequently, the companies separated in 1925 before reuniting through a merger in 1989 to form Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk Market Cap

Novo Nordisk revolutionized the pharma industry by introducing insulin pens in 1985. These pens eliminated the need for separate insulin vials and syringes, particularly benefiting individuals who required multiple daily insulin doses, such as those with type 1 diabetes.

In February 2018 Novo Nordisk introduced Ozempic® (semaglutide) as a once-weekly injectable medication for type 1 and type 2 diabetes treatment. Approved by the FDA in December 2017, Ozempic® helps control blood sugar levels, promotes weight loss, and potentially reduces the risk of cardiovascular events.

Ozempic by Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies

The rampant off-label use of Ozempic as a weight loss drug has sparked concerns among healthcare providers due to potential risks and side effects associated with using the medication outside its approved indication for diabetes management.

As per experts from Harvard Medical School, this trend fueled by social media influencers and endorsements from Hollywood figures, has led to shortages of the medication for individuals who require it for its intended purpose.

Celebrities, including comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler, have spoken out about the rising trend of using obesity products Ozempic in Hollywood:

@pagesix #ChelseaHandler ‘didn’t know’ she was on #Ozempic #CallHerDaddy ♬ original sound – Pagesix | Celebrity Gossip

Novo Nordisk maintains a dominant position in the diabetes market, with a value share of 54.8% in the GLP-1 market and a stable value share of 43.9% in the insulin market, as indicated in its 2023 annual report.

In 2023, the company’s net sales reached more than 232 billion Danish kroner ($33.4 billion at the time), marking over a 31.12% increase from 2022 when it stood at 176.95 billion Danish kroner ($25.05 billion at the time). Novo Nordisk stock skyrocketed during the Ozempic craze, making the company worth more in terms of market cap than Denmark’s entire GDP.

Company Name Novo Nordisk
Founder August Krogh, H.C. Hagedorn
Founding Date 1922
Headquarters Bagsværd, Denmark
Employees 64,000
Focus Areas Diabetes, obesity management, rare diseases

3. Johnson & Johnson – $387 billion

Johnson Johnson Pharma

Johnson & Johnson has a market capitalization of $387 billion as of February 2024. With nearly 153,000 employees recorded in 2023, it is the largest pharmaceutical company globally in terms of workforce.

Being one of the oldest and largest pharma companies, it encompasses all areas of pharmaceuticals, including research, development, manufacturing, and sales of pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

Furthermore, J&J  is a leading pharmaceutical company worldwide in terms of R&D spending, with a total investment of $15 billion in 2023. Additionally, the company operates 15 international research and development facilities.

The multinational corporation was founded in 1886 by Robert Wood Johnson I, James Wood Johnson, and Edward Mead Johnson. It was the first company in the world to mass-produce sterile surgical dressings and antiseptic medical supplies.

J&J Market Cap

Johnson & Johnson develops and markets a diverse array of prescription drugs spanning multiple therapeutic areas. For instance, some of its well-known drugs include:

  • Stelara (psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis)
  • Darzalex (cancer)
  • Imbruvica (cancer)
  • Remicade (autoimmune diseases)

Stelara was Johnson & Johnson’s top pharmaceutical revenue generator in 2023, bringing in $10.8 billion for the company’s revenue that year.

Johnson and Johnson Pharma Drugs

In 2023 Johnson & Johnson separated from its consumer healthcare unit, Kenvue, to focus on its pharmaceutical and medTech sectors. Before the split, Johnson & Johnson had several notable over-the-counter drugs in its consumer health portfolio, including:

  • Tylenol
  • Motrin
  • Benadryl
  • Pepcid
  • Reactine

Consumer Health J&J

In 2021, Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine became the first single-dose vaccine authorized for emergency use in the US and subsequently ranked as the third most administered vaccine in the country.

Company Name Johnson & Johnson
Founder Robert Wood Johnson I, James Wood Johnson, Edward Mead Johnson
Founding Date 1886
Headquarters New Brunswick, New Jersey, US
Employees 153,000
Focus Areas Oncology, immunology, neuroscience

4. Merck Co – $326 billion

Merck Co.

Merck’s pioneering involvement in producing streptomycin stands as one of its earliest significant contributions to the pharmaceutical field. Streptomycin, among the first commercially produced antibiotics, played a pivotal role in addressing tuberculosis, one of the world’s greatest scourges that killed countless people. Though it’s important to note that Merck’s efforts have certainly not eliminated tuberculosis as it killed over 1.3 million people in 2022.

Merck Co. Market Cap

In fiscal year 2023, Merck Co’s worldwide revenue reached $60.1 billion, with a notable Q4 performance reporting global sales of $14.6 billion. Notably, human health sales accounted for $13.1 billion of the quarterly revenue, while the animal health sector contributed $1.3 billion.

Merck’s significant presence in the veterinary medicine industry is a key factor driving its substantial revenue in this sector, solidifying its position as one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the animal health field. The company first entered the animal industry in 1948 when it introduced a drug to help prevent a parasitic poultry disease.

Merck Animal Health

Merck Co anticipates its sales to reach between $62.7 billion and $64.2 billion in 2024, driven by the success of key cancer drugs like Keytruda, Lynparza, and Lenvima.

Keytruda, Merck’s flagship cancer drug, is expected to uphold its position as the world’s top-selling drug in 2024, with projected sales exceeding $27 billion.

The cancer drug surged to prominence in 2023, emerging as the best-selling drug globally with total sales reaching $25 billion. Keytruda’s versatility extends to its use in treating various forms of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer, and more, making it a groundbreaking medication with a significant therapeutic impact.

Keytruda Cancer Treatment

Furthermore, growth in 2024 for Merck Co is anticipated to be driven by vaccine sales from GARDASIL, which saw sales increase from $1.4 billion in 2022 to $1.9 billion in 2023.

Company Name Merck Co.
Founder George Merck
Founding Date 1891
Headquarters Rahway, New Jersey, US
Employees 69,000
Focus Areas Oncology, infectious diseases, virology, vaccines, diabetes

5.AbbVie – $315 billion

Youngest and Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies

The company’s name AbbVie is a combination of “Abbott” and “Vie,” with “Vie” meaning “life” in French, symbolizing the company’s commitment to enhancing life through pharmaceutical innovation.

It is the youngest among the largest pharma companies by market cap featured on this list. However, it has its roots deeply embedded in Abbott Laboratories since 1888, showcasing a legacy of innovation and commitment to healthcare.

Abbvie Market Cap.

Abbott Laboratories, originally specializing in both medical devices and pharmaceuticals, spun off its pharmaceutical division to form AbbVie in 2013, enabling the latter to focus solely on pharmaceuticals. Today the company operates under the name Abbott, and continues to be a dominant leader in the medical devices industry.

AbbVie places a strong emphasis on research and development (R&D) as a cornerstone of its business development strategy. In 2023, the company invested $7.6 billion in R&D, marking an increase of almost $1 billion from the prior year.

With operations spanning 17 countries, AbbVie’s R&D efforts are supported by a dedicated team of over 12,500 scientists and staff.

R&D Abbvie Sites

The American pharmaceutical company reported a total revenue of $54.3 billion in 2023.
Some of AbbVie’s top-selling drugs include:

  • Humira (rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Skyrizi (rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Rinvoq (autoimmune disease)
  • Imbruvica (Leukemia)
  • Venclexta (Leukemia)

In 2023, Humira emerged as AbbVie’s top-selling drug, with revenue totaling $3.3 billion.

Additionally, it was the top pharmaceutical product with the highest lifetime drug sales in 2022, amounting to $219 billion. Forecasted data by Statista from 2024 indicates that Humira is expected to maintain this position from 2023 to 2028, with total lifetime drug sales projected to reach $264 billion by 2028.

Humira Lifetime Sales

According to AbbVie’s 2023 annual report, the company is hoping immunology duo Skyrizi and Humira, along with Rinvoq, will drive a high single-digit compound annual revenue growth rate through 2029. Additionally, Abbvie expects combined Skyrizi and Rinvoq 2027 revenues to exceed $27 billion by 2027.

Company Name Abbvie
Founder Abbott Laboratories
Founding Date 2013
Headquarters North Chicago, Illinois, US
Employees 50,000
Focus Areas Immunology, oncology, neuroscience, aesthetics

6. Novartis – $211 billion



Before the merger that formed Novartis in 1996, the company’s predecessor companies, Ciba-Geigy (founded in 1859) and Sandoz Laboratories (established in 1886), had rich histories in the pharmaceutical industry.

The two companies initially specialized in the production of synthetic dyes before expanding into other chemicals and eventually shifting their focus to pharmaceuticals.

Novartis Market Cap.

Entresto, Novartis’ best-selling drug, was developed for treating heart failure. It enhances heart function and lowers cardiovascular risks in heart failure patients, achieving total sales of $6 billion in 2023.

Cosentyx is Novartis’ second top-selling drug due to its effectiveness in treating several inflammatory conditions, including:

  • Psoriasis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Axial spondyloarthritis

In 2023, it generated nearly $5 billion in sales, with a 4% revenue increase from the previous year.

Additionally, Novartis is known for developing medications to address neurological disorders, with Gilenya being among its successful drugs used for treating multiple sclerosis. However, in 2023, Gilenya’s sales amounted to $2.0 billion, a decrease from $3.2 billion in 2019.

Gilenya Novartis

This decline can be attributed to generic competition, resulting in a 4% decrease in Novartis’ overall sales growth, particularly impacting Gilenya’s sales in the US and Europe.

Gilenya faced generic competition primarily due to patent expirations, resulting in the entry of generic alternatives into the market.

Company Name Novartis
Founder Merger
Founding Date 1996
Headquarters Basel, Switzerland
Employees 119,000
Focus Areas Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolic, Immunology, Neuroscience

7. Roche – $209 billion


One of Roche’s first pioneering inventions included the development of synthetic vitamins in the 1950s, notably vitamin C and vitamin B1.

Innovative medical breakthroughs and years of dedicated research have propelled Roche into becoming a key player in the pharmaceutical industry, with its market capitalization valued at $209 billion as of 2024.

Roche Market Cap

Fast forward to 2022, and Roche continued to lead the way. With an unwavering commitment to research and development, Roche invested $14 billion, surpassing all other pharmaceutical companies that year in its dedication to advancing healthcare.

Top R&D Pharma Companies

Roche reported a total revenue of CHF 58.7 billion ($65.37 billion at the time) in 2023, with pharmaceutical sales reaching CHF 44.6 billion ($49.5 billion). This remarkable figure was propelled by the growth in multiple advanced medicines.

The company focuses on developing innovative medicines for various cancer types such as breast, lung, colorectal, leukemia, lymphoma, and melanoma.

In 2023 alone, Roche’s cancer drug sales reached CHF 14.8 billion ($16.428 billion), showcasing the company’s significant impact in the field.

Roche has emphasized the development of innovative medicines due to past market exclusivity challenges. For example, in 2020, biosimilar competition resulted in a significant drop of $6.34 billion in revenue for Roche’s cancer drugs Herceptin, Avastin, and Rituxan, according to then-CEO Bill Anderson.

In 2023, Ocrevus was Roche’s highest-performing drug, generating nearly $6.4 billion in sales. According to Mayo Clinic experts, it is the only humanized monoclonal antibody disease-modifying therapy (DMT) medication approved by the FDA for treating both the relapse-remitting and primary-progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.

Roche Top Drugs

Hemlibra ranked as Roche’s second top-selling drug in 2023, generating $4.1 billion in drug sales, marking a 16% increase from the previous year. The drug’s approval by the FDA in 2017 marked a major advancement in managing hemophilia A, providing a vital option to prevent bleeding episodes and blood clots.

Roche’s latest drug Vabysmo, designed to address severe eye diseases, received FDA approval in October 2023. Within a short period following its approval, the drug achieved sales exceeding $2.3 billion during the fiscal year 2023.

Company Name Roche
Founder Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche
Founding Date 1896
Headquarters Basel, Switzerland
Employees 104,000
Focus Areas Oncology, ophthalmology, neurology

8.AstraZeneca – $204 billion


Astra AB, founded in 1913, laid the foundation for what would later become AstraZeneca, one of the largest pharma companies with a market capitalization of $204 billion. Astra AB was an early pioneer in breast cancer treatment. It was ICI Pharmaceuticals (now part of AstraZeneca) that introduced tamoxifen in 1977 as a hormonal therapy.

In 1993, ICI divided its pharmaceutical, pesticide, and specialty chemical divisions into a separate entity known as Zeneca Group PLC.

AstraZeneca Market Cap

Then, in 1999, AstraZeneca was formed through the merger between Swedish company Astra AB and British company Zeneca Group PLC. This merger connected Astra AB, a product of ICI’s pharmaceutical division, to the eventual creation of AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca had a total revenue of $45.8 billion in 2023, marked by significant growth excluding COVID-19 medicines. The company’s COVID-19 vaccine sales experienced a notable decline, plummeting by 86% from the previous year to $312 million.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford, was first authorized for emergency use by the UK on December 30, 2020. However, the vaccine was banned in the UK a year later due to reports of people developing blood clots.

Within AstraZeneca’s revenue breakdown, the oncology segment stood out in 2023, amassing $18.4 billion in sales. Their top-selling drug, Tagrisso, designed for lung cancer treatment, contributed substantially with $5.79 billion in sales.


AstraZeneca’s Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism drug Farxiga emerged as the second revenue leader in 2023, with sales totaling $5.997 billion, the bestselling non-covid product.

Leveraging AI and innovative technologies, AstraZeneca remains at the forefront of drug discovery and patient engagement. With a substantial investment of $10.9 billion in R&D, AstraZeneca continues its commitment to pioneering healthcare solutions.

Company Name AstraZeneca
Founder Merger
Founding Date 1999
Headquarters Cambridge, UK
Employees 83,100
Focus Areas Oncology, cardiovascular, renal and metabolism, respiratory, vaccines and
immunology, rare diseases.

9. Amgen – $153 billion



With over four decades in the pharmaceutical industry, Amgen has cemented its position as one of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies globally, boasting a market capitalization of $153 billion.

Amgen CEO Founder

One of Amgen’s earliest successes came with the introduction of Epogen (epoetin alfa) in 1983. Epogen became the first recombinant DNA-derived product approved by the FDA in 1989 for the treatment of anemia associated with chronic kidney disease.

In 2023 Amgen’s total revenue was $28.2 billion, resulting from a 9% increase in product sales. Amgen’s standout product in 2023 was Prolia, leading the company’s sales with $4 billion.

This vital treatment for osteoporosis and bone loss highlights Amgen’s dedication to improving skeletal health and underscores its commitment to patient care and innovation.Prolia by Amgen

Similarly, Enbrel generated $3.6 billion in sales, and remained a cornerstone therapy for autoimmune disorders, further reflecting Amgen’s leadership in addressing a range of debilitating conditions.

Together, these products exemplify Amgen’s unwavering focus on innovation and patient-centric care, solidifying its position in the pharmaceutical industry.

Over the years, Amgen has expanded its portfolio and global presence through strategic acquisitions and collaborations.

Notable acquisitions include Immunex Corporation in 2002, which brought Enbrel into Amgen’s portfolio, and Onyx Pharmaceuticals in 2013, adding multiple oncology therapies to its pipeline.

Company Name Amgen
Founder George B. Rathmann
Founding Date 1980
Headquarters Thousand Oaks, California, US
Employees 23,000
Focus Areas Inflammation, rare diseases, oncology

10. Pfizer Inc – $153 billion


Pfizer, the oldest pharma giant in this list, has a market capitalization of $153 billion as of 2024.

In 2023, Pfizer reported a total revenue of $58.5 billion marking a significant decline of 42% compared to 2022, when revenue reached over $100 billion. Of this total, $50.9 billion stemmed from drug sales, while $7.5 billion came from alliance revenues.

According to Pfizer’s annual earnings report, the operational decreases in year-over-year revenue were primarily attributed to reduced demand for COVID-19 medications Comirnaty and Paxlovid, which together drove a 41% decline in revenue.

Established in 1849, Pfizer has been a leader in the pharmaceutical industry for over a century and a half shaping healthcare worldwide.

For example, Pfizer’s groundbreaking method of penicillin synthesis harnessed the power of fermentation to mass-produce this life-saving antibiotic during World War II, marking a historical moment in human medicine. Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin’s antibiotic effects in 1928 but it wasn’t until many years later when Pfizer discovered how to mass produce it.

Pfizer Market Cap

In 2020, Pfizer announced a historic partnership with BioNTech to develop and distribute one of the first COVID 19 vaccines, which played a significant role in the global fight against the pandemic and established itself further as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

The Phase 3 clinical trial results of Pfizer-BioNTech’s initial vaccine demonstrated a 95% effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. According to Pfizer, since December 2020, nearly 4.6 billion Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines were shipped to 181 countries across the world.

In 2022, Pfizer led the list of the largest pharmaceutical companies based on pharma revenue in the world, with sales revenue totaling $91.3 billion. This figure surpassed the second-ranked company, AbbVie, by $35 billion.

Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies

Pfizer completed its acquisition of Seagen for a total enterprise value of approximately $43 billion in December 2023. Acquiring Seagen will bolster Pfizer’s oncology portfolio, uniting Seagen’s cancer therapies with Pfizer’s existing offerings to drive innovation and solidify its position as a market leader in cancer treatment.

Company Name Pfizer Inc.
Founder Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart
Founding Date 1849
Headquarters New York City, New York, US
Employees 88,000
Focus Areas Rare diseases, vaccines, inflammation and immunology, oncology

Becoming the Biggest Pharmaceutical Company in the World

Based on market capitalization figures, it’s evident that the largest pharmaceutical companies excel in generating substantial drug sales, particularly in the diabetic, oncology (cancer), and autoimmune disease sectors. These specific therapeutic areas are often characterized by high prevalence rates, and significant unmet medical needs. Therefore, the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world prioritize R&D efforts in these areas to address these challenges and improve patient outcomes to secure the best returns for shareholders.

Moreover, breakthroughs in these sectors present substantial market opportunities, given the large patient populations in need of treatment and the potential for innovative therapies to make a meaningful impact on patient lives. However, the ranking of pharmaceutical giants by market capitalization can fluctuate due to various factors, including drug performance, progress in research and development, regulatory approvals, market demand, and competition from generic alternatives.

Nonetheless, the top pharma companies’ continuous focus on innovation and their ability to adapt to evolving market dynamics will play a crucial role in determining their future standings. As the pharmaceutical landscape evolves, it remains evident that staying at the forefront of innovation and addressing unmet medical needs will be key to maintaining leadership positions in the industry.


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