Pharmacy Fact: What is the Best-Selling Prescription Drug?

The pharmaceutical market is massive, clocking in at more than $1.2 trillion in 2020, with an anticipated growth of nearly $22 billion dollars expected in 2021. Examining which drug makes up the most of that revenue, one name pulls far away from the competition.

The pharmaceutical market is massive, clocking in at more than $1.2 trillion in 2020, with an anticipated growth of nearly $22 billion dollars expected in 2021.1 Examining which drug makes up the most of that revenue, one name pulls far away from the competition.2

Adalimumab (Humira, AbbVie) was the highest selling drug of 2020, generating a massive $19.8 billion in total revenue.2 Sales of adalimumab accounted for close to 61% of AbbVie’s total net revenue for 2018,3 and it’s more than $5 billion higher than the net profits generated by the runner-up, pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck).2 Adalimumab is approved for the treatment of several autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn disease, ankylosing spondylitis, and plaque psoriasis in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.3

Pembrolizumab may soon overtake adalimumab, however.The drug has been awarded a number of regulatory approvals and has seen activity across 25 different cancer types. Pembrolizumab has been projected to generate $22.5 billion in revenue by 2025, whereas adalimumab’s patent is set to expire in 2023, which is anticipated to precede a major decrease in revenue because of biosimilar competition.4

Neither of these 2 prescriptions are the best-selling drug of all time, however. That honor still goes to atorvastatin (Lipitor, Pfizer), which generated a total lifetime sales figure of $150.1 billion by Q3 of 2017. For contrast, adalimumab had an estimated lifetime revenue of $109 billion over the same period, and with the anticipated decline in sales, it’s unlikely to eclipse atorvastatin’s lifetime revenue anytime soon.5

REFERENCES

  1. Global pharmaceuticals market report 2021: market is expected to grow from $1228.45 billion in 2020 to $1250.24 billion in 2021 - long-term forecast to 2025 & 2030 [news release]. Globe Newswire; March 31, 2021. Accessed August 19, 2021. https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2021/03/31/2202135/28124/en/Global-Pharmaceuticals-Market-Report-2021-Market-is-Expected-to-Grow-from-1228-45-Billion-in-2020-to-1250-24-Billion-in-2021-Long-term-Forecast-to-2025-2030.html
  2. 50 of 2020’s best-selling pharmaceuticals. Drug Discovery & Trends; May 14, 2021. Accessed August 19, 2021. https://www.drugdiscoverytrends.com/50-of-2020s-best-selling-pharmaceuticals/
  3. The top selling prescription drugs by revenue. Pharmaceutical Technology; May 21, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2021. https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/features/top-selling-prescription-drugs/
  4. Keytruda Set to Become World’s Top-Selling Drug, Forecast Shows. BioSpace; October 4, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2021. https://www.biospace.com/article/keytruda-set-to-become-world-s-top-selling-drug-forecast-shows/
  5. The 15 all-time best-selling prescription drugs. Kiplinger; December 5, 2017. Accessed August 19, 2021. https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/investing/t027-s001-the-15-all-time-best-selling-prescription-drugs/index.html