With 48 percent of the global market and $252 billion in sales (in 2006), the United States ranks by far as the largest and wealthiest pharmaceutical market. Per capita spending on drugs reached $1,154 in 2007, almost double that of any other country, while pharmaceutical research and investment hit a record $55.2 billion in 2006.

Due in part to the approaching retirement of the baby boom generation, the U.S. pharmaceutical market is expected to continue its rapid growth (plus seven percent in 2006). As home to many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Merck & Co. and Bristol-Meyers Squibb, the United States is in a unique position to benefit from this boom.

The top ten pharmaceutical companies by sales in 2006

Rank Company Sales ($m) Growth (%) World Market Share  
1 Pfitzer (USA) 45,083 1.8 7.2  
2 GlaxoSmith Kline (USA) 37,034 9.7 5.9  
3 Sanofi-Aventis 35,638 5.0 5.7  
4 Novartis 28,880 18.0 4.6  
5 Hoffmann-La Roche 26,596 21.8 4.2  
6 AstraZeneca 25,741 10.5 4.1  
7 Johnson & Johnson 23,267 4.2 3.7  
8 Merck & Co. (USA) 22,636 2.8 3.6  
9 Wyeth (USA) 15,683 2.4 2.5  
10 Eli Lilly & Co. (USA) 14,814 7.5 2.4  


The pharmaceutical industry consistently ranks as one of the most profitable industries in the United States with an average 10.3 percent return on assets in 2005, versus a median return of just 4.7 percent in all other industries.

Increasing expenditures for drugs in the US promise this strong growth will continue. Drug expenditures are now the fastest-growing component of health care costs, increasing almost 15 percent annually. They account for about 8 percent of health care spending, and at their current rate of increase, will soon surpass spending for physician’s services and, for many health maintenance organizations (HMOs), the costs of hospitalization.

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