Marco Cáceres di Iorio

Merck Leads World’s Top Vaccine Makers, Novartis Out

In the 21st century, the vaccine manufacturing industry has been largely dominated by five big pharmaceutical corporations. In alphabetical order, these include the multi-national firms GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) of Brentford, England; Merck & Co. of Kenilworth, NJ.; Novartis AG of Basel, Switzerland; Pfizer, Inc. of New York City, NY; and Sanofi Pasteur SA of Lyon, France.

In 2014, the value of the world market for vaccines was estimated at $33.14 billion.1  Merck was the industry leader with total vaccine sales revenue of $6.25 billion, followed by Sanofi Pasteur with $5.85 billion, GSK with $5.26 billion, Pfizer with $4.48 billion, and Novartis with $1.53 billion.2 So, as of last year, Merck controlled approximately 18.9% of the market; Sanofi Pasteur, 17.6%; GSK, 15.9%; Pfizer, 13.5%; and Novartis, 4.6%. Other companies split the remaining 29.5% share of the global vaccine market.

But the industry, which is clearly enjoying considerable market growth, is also in the process of consolidating, and companies that make up the top five vaccine makers have been shifting positions with mergers and acquisitions during the past years. In 2010, for example, the vaccine market value was estimated at $25.3 billion3 and, back then, GSK was the industry leader with 23% share of the market, followed by Sanofi Pasteur with 17%, Pfizer with 13%, Merck with 12%, and Novartis with 11%—leaving 25% of the market for other competitors.4

The big losers have been GSK and Novartis, while the big winner has clearly been Merck, which took over the top slot from GSK in 2013 when it posted sales revenue of $5.77 billion. That year, GSK sold $5.37 billion worth of vaccines, followed by Sanofi Pasteur with $5.11 billion, Pfizer with $3.97 billion, and Novartis with $1.98 billion.5

Five years ago, you could realistically talk about the Big 5 vaccine makers that controlled 75% of the world market. That’s not true anymore. Now it’s really more the Big 4, which account for two-thirds of the market.

Novartis is on its way out of the vaccine market. Last year, the company sold off the remainder of its vaccines operations to CSL Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia.2 Novartis had previously made deal with GSK to swap some of its vaccines business for most of the British firm’s oncology business. It’s a strategic move by the Swiss company, which wants to focus on expanding its cancer business. Novartis specifically seeks to position itself more solidly within the melanoma drug market6 and pursue opportunities in the “hot field” of cancer immunotherapy.7

CSL will now aim to compete head on against the world’s top vaccine makers, notably within the influenza vaccine market. Its main competition in that segment will be Sanofi Pasteur and GSK, along with the British-Swiss firm AstraZeneca plc, based in London.8

The world market for vaccines is estimated to be worth $57.8 billion by 2019.1 It is projected to grow to $100 billion by 2025.9 The largest vaccine markets are currently North America, with about a 42% share, and Europe, with 36%, but the demand for vaccines and significant revenue for vaccine manufacturers is projected to increasingly come from China, India, and other areas of Asia and the Pacific Rim.9



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