2015 Top 20 Companies: Novartis

2. Novartis $19.4B ▲3.0%

Global revenue: $51.3B (1st); up 3.7%
Top brands: Gleevec ($2.3B); Diovan/Co-Diovan ($1.4B); Gilenya ($1.3B)
Promotional spend: $577M (11th); 3% of rev.
R&D spend: $9.6B (1st); 0% change; 18.7% of rev.
Planned launches: LCZ696 (CV); secukinumab (auto.); LEE011 (onc.); Zarxio (onc.)
Patent expirations: Gleevec (2016); Ritalin/Focalin (2018)

Faced with aggressive generic competition, the Swiss-based company spent much of last year overhauling its portfolio. In a three-way asset swap, Novartis bought GlaxoSmithKline's cancer franchise for a reported $16 billion and sold its vaccine unit to GSK for $7 billion; the two companies agreed to pool their OTC products. Novartis also sold its animal health assets to Eli Lilly for $5.4 billion and its blood diagnostics unit to the Spanish company Grifols for $1.7 billion. A successful lawsuit delayed generic competition to blockbuster leukemia drug Gleevec until 2016, but patent expirations remain problematic, with an estimated $10 billion at risk over the next year alone. On the bright side, Gleevec's replacement, Tasigna, tallied sales of $1.5 billion in 2014, and oncology drug Zarxio recently became the first-ever biosimilar approved by the FDA. The company also has high hopes for LCZ696, a heart-failure drug expected to receive FDA approval this year. However, the first-in-its-class agent will face an uphill battle against time-tested, safe, inexpensive ACE inhibitors.

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