PharmExec Blog

The Urge to Merge: Dealmaking Lessons from Pharma History

By Cliff Kalb.

The major pressures hindering pharmaceutical industry success have not changed—payer constraints on drug costs, R&D productivity, an increasingly risk-averse regulatory climate, generic encroachment, and negative public perceptions linked to reputation.

Looking at the latest rendition of the Pharma 50, prescription drug revenue rankings for the top 10 major global players in 2013 show some modest shifts among the leaders, but no change in the members of the group. While Novartis has displaced Pfizer for the top spot, both of these firms have already engaged in deal-making in 2014, which could reverse the pattern again.

To successfully access innovative products in areas of high unmet medical need and sustain revenue growth, many firms have chosen to acquire or merge with competitors.

Mega–merger activity in the industry is not new. For example, Novartis was formed in 1996 when Sandoz merged with Ciba-Geigy, which itself was the product of a merger in 1970. Today’s Sanofi is actually an entity that represents a collective of some 11 companies that had been previously independent.

A 22-year illustrative history of industry merger activity from 1989-2011 is shown the chart below.



For the rest of this article, click here.

Cliff Kalb is President of Kalb & Associates and a member of Pharm Exec’s Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at

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