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TOP 10: Innovative Pharma Companies to Watch in 2015

The global pharmaceuticals market is worth $300 billion a year, a figure expected to rise to $400 billion within three years, according to the World Health Organization.

Pharmaceutical innovation was at its best in 2014 – the FDA approved a total of 44 drugs, 14 more than what was approved in 2013 and just nine shy from tying the all-time high record of 53 approvals in 1996.

The outlook fueled enthusiasm for the pharmaceutical industry, filling investors with optimism about new medicines that are able to reach premium prices on the market.

The following ten pharma companies led 2014 with the highest total return investment rate, drug approvals and quarterly sales. Big things can be expected from them this year, as well. So keep an eye on them.

10. Johnson & Johnson

Total return: +17.3 percent

Market capitalization: $292 billion

Quarterly sales: $18 billion

New drug approvals: 1

Five-year return: +91.2 percent

Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical business grew strongly due to the continued uptake in its current products. The company’s pharma revenues jumped by almost 17 percent in the first nine months of 2014, according to Forbes, while immunology drug sales increased 12.2 percent.

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9. AstraZeneca

Total return: +25.2 percent

Market capitalization: $89 billion

Quarterly sales: $6.5 billion

New drug approvals: 4

Five-year total return: 92.9 percent

AstraZeneca had more drug approvals from the FDA than any other company and its pipeline includes promising cancer and asthma drugs.

8. Merck

Total return: +16.9 percent

Market capitalization: $162 billion

Quarterly sales: $10.5 billion

New drug approvals: 3

Five-year total return: +89 percent

Merck’s melanoma drug Keytruda was approved by the FDA in 2014, which works by unlocking the immune system to attack tumors.

7. Novartis

Total return: +18.5 percent

Market capitalization: $224,118.3

Quarterly sales: $12.6 billion

New drug approvals: 2

Five-year total return: +100.1 percent

Novartis purchased GlaxoSmithKline’s cancer assets in 2014, continued investments in CAR-T therapy and continued to develop its heart failure drug LCZ696.

6. AbbVie

Total return: +28 percent

Market capitalization: $104 billion

Quarterly sales: $5 billion

New drug approvals: 1

AbbVie’s hepatitis C drug was released to the market in 2014 following the deal made with Express Scripts and excitement continues to build for its new cancer drug ABT-199.

5. Gilead Sciences

Total return: +25.5 percent

Market capitalization: $142 billion

Quarterly sales: $6 billion

New drug approvals: 2

Five-year total return: +335.7 percent

Gilead Sciences launched hepatitis C drug Sovaldi last year and Gilead offers a strong pipeline for the coming year.

4. Eli Lilly

Total return: 39.8 percent

Market capitalization: $77 billion

Quarterly sales: $4.9 billion

New drug approvals: 3

Five-year total return: 141.7 percent

Eli Lilly received FDA approval for its gastric cancer drug Cyramza and made inroads back into its traditional stronghold of diabetes.

3. Amgen

Total return: +42.3 percent

Market capitalization: $121 billion

Quarterly sales: $5 billion

New drug approvals: 1

Five-year return: 201 percent

Amgen’s biggest win was clinical data which supported the usefulness of Kyprolis, the multiple melanoma drug Amgen acquired when it bought Onyx Pharmaceuticals for $10 billion.

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2. Celgene

Total return: +32.4 percent

Market capitalization: $89 billion

Quarterly sales: $1.98 billion

New drug approvals: 1

Five-year total return: +301.8 percent

Celgene has a lot of potential in the cancer drug development field. According to Bernstein Research, the patents for multiple myeloma drug Revlimid will hold until 2026.

1. Actavis

Total return: +53.2 percent

Market capitalization: $68 billion

Quarterly sales: $2.8 billion

New drug approvals: 1

Five-year total return: 549.9 percent

In 2014, Actavis spent $25 billion to buy Forest Laboratories and later announced plans to buy Botox-maker Allergan for $66 billion. Chief executive Brent Saunders is calling this trend “growth pharma,” where generic drug-making is being combined with creating franchises of valuable pharma brands.

While rising innovation is helping restore the industry fortunes, it also suggests that we are far from running out of innovation.

Statistics sourced via Forbes and Factset Systems. 

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