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Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) is poised to knock Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) off its mantle as the top-selling drugmaker as its blockbuster statin Lipitor, which had peak sales of $13.4 billion, loses patent protection, according to projections from EvaluatePharma. The reshuffling of the ranks comes during a swell of patent expirations and major acquisitions intended to replace revenue that will be lost to an onslaught of competition from generic drugmakers.

Sanofi has pulled itself up through the ranks in a series of acquisitions, including its $20.1 billion buy this year of the biotechnology company Genzyme. EvaluatePharma expects sales of Genzyme's blockbusters Cerezyme and Myozyme will help offset the loss of revenues from the blood thinner Plavix, which loses patent protection in the United States in 2012. It should also help replace the erosion of revenues from generic drug competitors to the company’s Lovenox and Taxotere.

Though Pfizer has also made notable acquisitions helping to offset the expected drop of annual sales of Lipitor to $2 billion, including its $68 billion purchase of Wyeth in 2009, it’s not enough to allow Pfizer to maintain the top spot among pharmaceutical companies based on prescription and over-the-counter sales. Pfizer has led the industry for nine years.

EvaluatePharma notes that recent pipeline successes should help maintain Pfizer’s rankings in the top of the pack, leaving it the only U.S.-based company among the top five. These drugs include tofacitinib for rheumatoid arthritis and Eliquis, a blood thinner it is developing with its partner Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY).

But M&A activity has not been a guaranteed path to expanded sales. EvaluatePharma noted that Merck (NYSE:MRK) continues to struggle to expand its pharmaceutical sales despites its 2009 acquisition of Schering-Plough for 41 billion. It forecasts that Merck will grow at an annual sales rate of 1 percent over the next four years falling behind GSK and Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY).

The Israeli generic drugmaker Teva (NYSE:TEVA) is expected to break into the top ten in 2012 with a forecasted compounded annual growth rate of 7 percent, second only to Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO), which is expected to post a 9 percent compounded annual growth rate. Both its branded and generic/biosimilar products are driving its growth thanks to a set of acquisition that included five multi-billion dollar deals in the last seven years.

Novartis (NYSE:NVS) is expected to move ahead of Pfizer into the second spot within the next few years thanks in part to strong sales growth from its multiple sclerosis drug, Gilenya, and its leukemia drug, Tasigna.

Source: Sanofi Set To Pass Pfizer As Biggest Drug Company