I have no doubt that merely asking the question will stir up a hornet’s nest of, shall we say, “colorful” disagreement? But that’s OK — sometimes a healthy debate is just what the doctor ordered. My posing an answer to the question is an even bigger threat to life and limb (namely my own). Once again, though, sometimes certain things have to be done.
That question: Which major pharmaceutical name has the best-looking drug pipeline right now?
I’ll concede there’s no crystal-clear winner, but after working my way through the industry’s biggest players, I do see one name in particular that’s well-positioned for revenue growth.
First things first: a quick look at each participant on the contest. Just be aware I won’t have room to dissect every single drug in each pipeline, but those drugs have been considered overall.
Not that it’s the best pipeline out there, but Novartis’ (NYSE:NVS) pipeline might be one of the most underappreciated. It’s cancer-heavy by design. The pillars for the company’s future revenue are Afinitor (breast cancer), which could be a game-changer, but Tasinga (leukemia) and QVA149 (respiratory disease/COPD) also are strong late-stage candidates.
Johnson & Johnson
Despite having 30 drugs in or past Phase 3 testing, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) doesn’t really knock anything out of the park; lots of quantity, but not necessarily a great deal of quality. Among these drugs are Xarelto (anti-coagulant), canagliflozin (type 2 diabetes), Simponi (ulcerative colitis), Zytiga (prostate cancer) and bapineuzumab (Alzheimer’s disease). They’re all respectable developments, though with the exception of bapineuzumab, there’s nothing that’s apt to be a show-stopper.
While it wouldn’t be fair to say AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) went down the wrong path by choosing to focus on smaller, lower-risk drug developments and acquisitions, it doesn’t exactly make for an exciting pipeline. As evidence of that notion, name one drug it’s working on. Even most seasoned pharma investors can’t name one. While the acquisition of Ardea earlier this year is better than nothing, the pipeline still feels pretty empty.
GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) is definitely a quiet contender in this race … and it needs some help ASAP, if last quarter’s sales are any indication. It’s currently got 15 items with key Phase 3 data due before the end of the year. Ten of those drug developments have already shown encouraging efficacy and safety profiles (so far). COPD, diabetes and HIV are some of the areas being targeted by these late-stage drugs.
Will anything ever really replace Lipitor now that its patent has expired? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) isn’t going to try. It has got 87 drugs all in the works, with 11 of them in Phase 3 … within sight of the endzone. The flagship drugs in that Phase 3 group include tofacitinib (rheumatoid arthritis), Eliquis (blood thinner) and bosutinib (chronic myeloid leukemia). Tofacitinib and Eliquis could both potentially generate $2 billion (or more) in sales per year.