Merck reported $11.9 billion in Q4 sales and announced a spin-off in its earnings report on Wednesday. Keep reading for Q4 and 2019 earnings from the top five pharma companies by revenue.


Merck earned $11.9 billion in sales last quarter, an 8% increase year-over-year, and $46.8 billion in sales in 2019, an 11% increase.

Keytruda made up nearly a quarter of Merck’s total 2019 sales, bringing in $11.1 billion. In Q4, Keytruda reached $3.1 billion in sales, a 46% increase year-over-year. Merck’s HPV vaccine Gardasil saw a 16% decrease in Q4, and its diabetes drug Januvia reported a 2% drop in sales last quarter. The new company is expected to earn about $6 billion in annual revenue.

The company will also spin-off of its biosimilar, women’s health and legacy products into a new company. Merck expects the spin-off to be completed in the first half of 2021 and has named Kevin Ali, currently an SVP leading Merck’s enterprise portfolio strategy initiative, the CEO. In its earnings presentation, Merck said the new company’s revenue will be led by birth control implant Nexplanon and the growing biosimilar business. 

In its 2020 forecast, Merck expects annual revenue to fall between $48.8 billion and $50.3 billion.


The Swiss pharma company reported overall sales growth of 9% at constant exchange rates last year. Its pharmaceutical division grew 11% and diagnostics grew 3%.

The pharmaceutical unit growth was primarily driven by rising sales of multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus, hemophilia drug Hemlibra and cancer treatment Tecentriq. U.S. pharma sales jumped 13% last year.

The company was concerned about the launch of biosimilars for Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin, but growth from its newer drugs outpaced any declines from those treatments in both the U.S. and Europe.

Also in Q4, Roche completed its acquisition of gene therapy developer Spark Therapeutics and signed a licensing deal with Sarepta for commercial rights to its experimental muscular dystrophy treatment.

Headed into 2020, Roche expects low- to mid-single digit sales growth, considering more impact from biosimilar competition.


Novartis reported sales growth in 2019, with a full year net sales increase of 9% and a Q4 increase of 8%. The company’s core operating income increased to $3.46 billion in Q4.

The company’s pharma sales were driven mainly by Cosentyx, a plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis treatment, and Entresto, its heart failure drug. Cosentyx sales increased more than 20% to $965 million in Q4 and Entresto jumped 65% to $518 million. 

Its new gene therapy treatment, and the world’s most expensive drug, Zolgensma, also reported strong Q4 sales, bringing in $186 million.

Sandoz, Novartis’ generic division, saw flat sales in Q4 and 2019, while its innovative medicines group saw sales increase by 10% in Q4 and 8% in full year 2019.

Heading into 2020, Novartis forecasts high-single to low-double digit growth in its core operating income, potentially lower than its 2019 performance, which saw a 17% increase. The company also expects mid- to high-single digit growth in net sales.


The company reported a revenue decline in its Q4 and full year 2019 earnings, mainly due to its divestment of the consumer health business. Q4 operational revenue fell 8% to $12.7 billion and 2019 revenue dropped 1% year-over-year to $51.8 billion.

Pfizer partially attributed the declines to its divestment of its consumer health business to GlaxoSmithKline, which closed in August. When the consumer division is removed, Q4 revenue only saw a 1% decline and 2019 revenue increased 2%.

Sales in 2019 were primarily driven by some familiar products. Breast cancer treatment Ibrance reported a 23% increase, bringing in $4.9 billion last year, heart disease drug Eliquis also increased by 26% and psoriasis treatment Xeljanz reported a 29% increase.

Pfizer’s off-patent business, Upjohn, saw a 32% decline in Q4 revenue and a 16% decline in 2019 revenue, mainly driven by Lyrica’s loss of exclusivity in the U.S. Pfizer said the Upjohn merger with Mylan is still expected to close by mid-2020.

The company also released its 2020 guidance. Pfizer expects revenue to fall between $48.5 billion and $50.5 billion. The company is heading into 2020 smaller after the consumer divestment and the upcoming Upjohn-Mylan combination.

Johnson & Johnson

The pharma company reported flat sales globally in 2019, just 0.6% higher than the previous year. Its Q4 worldwide sales performed slightly better, with a 1.7% increase over Q4 2018.

J&J’s pharmaceutical unit saw the highest growth, 3.5%. Its consumer unit reported 0.9% growth and the medical device division saw a slight decrease of 0.5%. The stars in Q4 were J&J’s oncology and infectious disease units, which saw 9% and 8% reported growth, respectively. Its top selling drugs were psoriasis treatments Stelara and Tremfya, multiple myeloma cancer drug Darzalex and blood cancer treatment Imbruvica.

The company’s consumer unit is still seeing falling sales, particularly in its baby unit. The baby care division, which includes baby powder, reported a 11% decrease in worldwide sales in Q4. J&J is still contending with hundreds of baby powder-related lawsuits, which offset other growth in consumer products.

Going into 2020, J&J expects to see higher sales than 2019, predicting 4% to 5% growth in reported sales this year. Total sales revenue in 2019 was $82.1 billion, which the company forecasts to increase up to $85.4 billion to $86.2 billion in 2020.