9 Surprising Facts About the Pharmaceutical Industry

9 Surprising Facts About the Pharmaceutical Industry

Written by Deepak Bhagat, In Health, Published On
August 9, 2021

Just how big is the global pharmaceutical industry? Experts predict it will reach $1.25 trillion by the end of 2021.

To put that into perspective, let’s say you lined up a trillion one-dollar bills end-to-end. The bills would stretch nearly 97 million miles — a distance farther away than the sun!

9 Surprising Facts About the Pharmaceutical Industry


Ready to learn some other mind-blowing pharmaceutical statistics? Hold on tight and keep reading!

  • The US Corners the Market

Drug sales in the US account for 47% of the global pharmaceutical market. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug. In fact, 20% of Americans take five or more prescription drugs!

  • Pharmaceutical Businesses in the US

Six of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies are headquartered in the US. This includes big names like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.

  • Colder-Than-Antarctica Temperatures

Several COVID-19 vaccines require storage temperatures as low as -70C. (For the record, that is colder than the continent of Antarctica). Thankfully, we can safely ship and store these life-saving vaccines because of the world’s cold supply chain.

  • 1-19 Spending Ratio

If you spend any time watching all those commercials on cable television, this one won’t surprise you. For every $1 that pharmaceutical companies spend on research and development, they spend $19 advertising the drug.

  • You’ll Need a Bigger Calculator

Have you ever wondered about the percentage of markup for prescription drug prices? Consider Xanax as an example, which has an average markup of 570,000%. The cost of the active ingredients in 100 pills is less than 2 cents, but the patient will pay over $137 for them.

  • Who Can Afford This?

In 2012, 11 of the 12 new medicines approved by the FDA came out priced above $100,000 per patient, per year. These pharmaceutical companies raked in a cool $85 billion that year. Meanwhile, thousands of patients who couldn’t afford their drugs were left to die.

  • The World’s Most Frequently Prescribed Drug

It’s not for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or heartburn. With an annual prescription revenue of $21.5 million, Synthroid (levothyroxine) is the most prescribed drug in the world. It’s used to treat hormonal imbalance due to an underactive thyroid.

  • The World’s Best-Selling Drug

Meanwhile, which prescription med is the most profitable? The award goes to Humira, Abbvie’s drug to treat inflammation and joint damage. It rakes in just shy of $20 billion in sales every year.

  • The FDA Controls More Than You’d Think

Getting back to that opening figure of one trillion, here’s another stat for you. The FDA monitors over $1 trillion worth of drugs, cosmetics, and food products. In other words, they regulate 25% of annual expenses for all Americans.

What Did You Learn About the Pharmaceutical Industry?

Love them or hate them, pharmaceutical companies are here to stay. We’ll leave the political discussion for another day and stick with these fascinating facts about the industry.

So the next time the topic comes up in conversation, be sure to share these mind-blowing facts with your friends!

Now that you know more about the pharmaceutical industry, what’s next? Browse our health section for the latest news on new medicines, prescription drugs, and much more.

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