April 1, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 7)

Which Companies Have the Deepest Pockets for Research and Development?

Big biopharma still spent big on research and development in 2012, but pharmaceutical and biotechnology giants are divided over how that spending compared with 2011, according to a GEN list of the 20 top R&D spenders for last year (Table).

Five of the top 10 biopharmas, and six of the top 20, spent less on R&D in 2012 than the previous year. Those numbers rise to six of the top 10, and seven of the top 20, when Sanofi is included based on constant exchange rates, which more than wiped out that company’s 2.3% increase in R&D expense last year. The declines are not too surprising given talk within the industry of the need to contain costs and generate more return for the money spent on research—in many cases, through new collaborations with other corporate or institutional partners.

The GEN list also shows that 13 of the top 20 biopharma R&D spenders shelled out less for R&D in proportion to their sales than they did in 2008, soon before a wave of mergers and acquisitions helped consolidate the industry’s key players—and generated new debt that companies opted to pay down in part via reduced R&D spending.

Of the seven companies that spent more on R&D in proportion to their sales last year compared with 2008, nearly all were either generics giants eager to develop portfolios of branded drugs (Teva), or biotechs looking to expand their product offerings (Gilead), or pharma giants scrambling to replenish pipelines depleted by patent-cliff expirations (AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb).

The Table shows a list of the top 20 biopharmas ranked by their R&D spending for 2012. Listings include R&D spending for 2012 and 2011, the percentage difference between the two years, the percentage of sales for both years, and 2008 R&D spending and percentage of sales. Figures were disclosed by the companies in annual reports and quarterly results press releases. Where applicable, figures were converted to U.S. dollars from other currencies.

Table. Research & Development Spending in Biopharma

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