2015 Top 20 Companies: AstraZeneca


1. AstraZeneca  $19.5B ▲7.2%

Global revenue: $33.3B (7th); up 4.9%
Top brands: Nexium ($5.9B); Crestor ($5.8B); Symbicort ($2.2B); Seroquel ($1.3B)
Promotional spend: $1.6B (2nd); 8.2% of rev.
R&D spend: $4.9B (7th); up 2%; 14.7% of rev.
Planned launches: MEDI-4736 (onc.); tremelimumab (onc.); lesinurad (gout); brodalumab (psoriasis)
Patent expirations: Symbicort (2015); Synagis (2015); Crestor (2016)

In the heat of Pfizer's failed $100-billion takeover bid last year, AZ's CEO Pascal Soriot made a promise to shareholders: If the company remained independent, he would lead it to sales of $45 billion by 2023—a 75% increase. When the smoke cleared, he walked back those bold words a little, but they are not completely outlandish. The UK-based drugmaker ranks among the “big four” of immuno-oncology companies (the others being Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and Merck) at the forefront of what many researchers believe might soon be one of medicine's most rewarding fields. In the coming months, interest in data from AZ's rich oncology pipeline will be high, especially the combo-drug MEDI-4736 and tremelimumab, with its unique CTLA-4 mechanism of action. However, even in best-case scenarios, the company likely faces lean times before new therapies pay off. Profits were down last year and might have been worse had a generic competitor to Nexium emerged sooner. Top-earner Crestor's patent expires in 2016. And the FDA's investigation of Onglyza for possible cardiovascular side effects jeopardizes AZ's diabetes-heavy portfolio. 

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