In the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industry within the health care sector, Pfizer (PFE) is the leader. Several large drug manufacturers exist within the market, though their status as major competitors lies primarily within specific drug markets. Novartis AG (NVS), Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) are among Pfizer's main competitors.


The major drug manufacturing company Pfizer, founded in 1849, is based in New York but operates globally. Pfizer researches develops, manufactures and then markets its pharmaceuticals, which include both prescription products and over-the-counter products, such as Advil and Robitussin. Pfizer products include both animal health products, such as vaccines, and human medicines. Its best-selling prescription products include Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug that once was the world's number one selling drug before the patent expired, pneumonia vaccine Prevnar and Viagra, which treats erectile dysfunction.

Merck & Co.

Founded in the 19th century, Merck & Co. is one of the largest pharmaceuticals companies in the world today. Though several of its top 10 revenue-producing products are considered specialty drugs since they cater to illnesses that are not widespread, at least one of its drugs directly competes with Pfizer. Merck's second-biggest product by revenue, selling nearly $3 billion a year, is Zetia. This cholesterol-lowering drug competes with Pfizer's Lipitor.

Novartis AG

Based in Switzerland, Novartis AG is the pharmaceutical industry's world leader in sales. Among its best-selling drugs are prescription treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis, and macular degeneration. Two of its cancer drugs generated more than $6 billion in sales in 2014. In the pipeline are oncology products that, if approved, would directly compete with Pfizer pharmaceuticals.

Bristol-Myers Squibb

Like most other major pharmaceutical companies, Bristol-Myers Squibb derives the bulk of its revenue from a limited number of drugs, typically either expensive specialty medications or cheaper products that are widely used. Bristol-Myers Squibb's mass market antipsychotic, Abilify, grosses the highest amount of sales for the company thanks to its widespread use in treating schizophrenia. Other top products are in the niche oncology and HIV/AIDS markets, both of which directly compete with Pfizer.

Johnson & Johnson

Though only about 40% of Johnson & Johnson's revenue comes from its pharmaceutical division, the well-known maker of many common household consumer goods presents formidable competition to other research-driven manufacturers such as Pfizer. Besides over-the-counter products for self-treatment and at-home medication, Johnson & Johnson produces high-priced specialty drugs used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, prostate cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

The pharmaceuticals industry endures years of research, clinical trials and attempts at obtaining FDA approval and patent protection for its products. Potential benefits to the process are found in the high level of profits if successful. Failure comes in the form of investment losses of time and money. Racing to the market in fierce competition are Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Bristol-Myers, and Johnson & Johnson.