How’d Big Pharma do this year? Very well. I decided to give every drug company with a market capitalization greater than $50 billion a letter grade, just like in school. The basis for the grades: I started with stock performance as a basic metric, and then considered each company’s scientific and medical output, whether or not its behavior was ethical, and the general drift of its business. I skipped the medical device giants, Medtronic and Abbott.
I gave one A+, to Bristol-Myers Squibb, based on its overall performance and its pioneering development of cancer drugs that work by priming the immune system. Gilead Sciences would have gotten one too were it not for the ethical issues surrounding its stopped collaboration with Bristol in hepatitis C, which I think hurt some patients. I am giving no Ds or Fs. There were no big drug disasters on a par with the recall of Merck’s Vioxx or Pfizer’s Bextra this year. Not even close.
Companies are sorted by the letter grade I gave them, and, where there was a tie, by stock performance. Let me know what I got right– and what I got wrong.
The Best Drug Companies
1. Bristol-Myers Squibb CompanyMarket capitalization: $87 billion Stock appreciation: +61.4% Grade: A+
Sure, the big-cap biotechs delivered better stock performance. But Big Pharmas don’t trade like this, and Bristol’s transformation, started under James Cornelius and continuing under current chief Lamberto Andreotti, has simply been amazing. (Former R&D head Elliot Sigal deserves credit, too.) Bristol is leading the way when it comes to cancer immunotherapy, which Science Magazine named as the breakthrough of the year. It’s smartly jettisoning its diabetes business to focus on what is working. And it is a player in hepatitis C, the other hot area this year. The clincher: this company is consistent. Last year was just as good.
Want to see the other top pharma companies for 2013?