Top 5 US Pharma Companies Netted $82 Billion in 2022: Report

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
July 25, 2023Business News
Top 5 US Pharma Companies Netted $82 Billion in 2022: Report
A medical syringe and vials of the Pfizer US pharmaceutical corporation and BioNTech German biotechnology 2021 company logos in New York on Oct. 3, 2021. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Pfizer/BioNTech)

The five largest pharmaceutical companies in the United States netted approximately $81.9 billion last year, according to a new report by, a non-profit organization that documents the activities of special interest groups. compiled Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) filings and other financial disclosures from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, AbbVie and Eli Lilly. All together, these five companies increased their earnings in 2022 by more than $8.8 billion over 2021 levels.

Pfizer—the fifth largest U.S. pharmaceutical company by market capitalization—recorded a net income of about $31.4 billion in 2022, according to the new report (pdf). Pfizer’s 2022 net income marked a 42.5 percent increase over its earnings in 2021 and spent more than $10.9 billion in dividends and stock buybacks.

AbbVie—the fourth largest U.S. pharmaceutical company by market capitalization—reported a net income of more than $11.8 billion in 2022 (pdf). This 2022 net income amounted to about a 12 percent increase from 2021. The company also reportedly gave shareholders more than $11.1 billion in cash dividends and share repurchases.

Merck was ranked as the third-largest U.S. pharmaceutical company and reported more than $14.5 billion in net income in 2022 (pdf). Merck’s net income amounted to an 11 percent increase.

Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson are around neck-and-neck as the two U.S. pharmaceutical companies with the largest market capitalizations.

Eli Lilly reported a net income of about $6.2 billion in 2022 (pdf), a 12 percent increase over its 2021 net income.

Johnson & Johnson reported a 14 percent decrease in its net earnings from 2022 to 2021 (pdf). Still, the company reportedly spent more than $11.6 billion on shareholder dividends and $6 billion to repurchase shares; a 22 percent increase from 2021.

Pharma Profits, Drug Prices and Inflation, which describes itself as a group seeking to “drive progressive change,” presented these rising net incomes for pharmaceutical companies alongside increasing drug costs in the United States. The organization described the increasing drug prices as a driving cause of inflation, rather than a symptom of the economic phenomenon.

“Eli Lilly has raised the price of Humalog insulin drug by 600% since 1996 and has funded efforts to oppose prescription drug price caps,” wrote. also noted AbbVie’s role in increasing prices for the drugs Humira and Imbruvica by 470 percent since 2003 and by 82 percent since 2013 respectively. also scrutinized Merck for seeking to sell the COVID-19 antiviral treatment molnupiravir at a rate 40 times what it costs to produce.

Merck filed a lawsuit (pdf) last month, challenging drug-price control measures in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. The lawsuit, filed in the federal court for the District of Columbia, argues that “for political benefit, the Government has falsely characterized the IRA as involving voluntary negotiations” and that the price controls amount to the government appropriating Merck’s property “without paying just compensation, in violation of the Takings Clause” of the 14th Amendment.

In a statement announcing its lawsuit, Merck said it takes about a decade and $2.5 billion on average to bring a new drug to market. The company said it has invested $1.1 trillion in researching and developing new treatments and cures since 2000, including $102.3 billion in 2021 alone.

Merck said the provisions of the IRA threaten to disincentivize the research and development it has done in the past, “which in time will leave many patients without treatment options.”

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has joined a separate lawsuit (pdf) in Texas’ Western District Court, challenging the IRA drug-price control provisions. This lawsuit similarly disputes the notion that the IRA’s drug-price control measures amount to genuine price negotiation measures, with pharmaceutical companies having to accept the dictated drug prices “under threat of a crippling excise tax for nonacquiescence.”

Ely Lilly and Johnson & Johnson are members of PhRMA. AbbVie and Merck have also contributed to PhRMA and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla as PhRMA’s treasurer. argued against claims by pharmaceutical companies that rising drug prices are key to supporting research and development for new drugs because in many cases, these drugmakers spent more on corporate dividends and stock buybacks than on research and development.

The progressive organization also noted an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, stating the IRA’s drug-price control measures could reduce the U.S. federal deficit by $237 billion over the course of the next decade, an average deficit reduction of $23.7 billion per year.

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