26 Incredible U.S. Pharmaceutical Statistics [2023]: Facts, Data, Trends And More

By Chris Kolmar
Feb. 21, 2023
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Research Summary. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is often a controversial topic, but there is no denying that it is a huge part of the U.S.’s economy and has produced many life-saving and life-improving drugs. Here are a few noteworthy statistics about pharmaceutical companies and consumers:

  • The U.S. pharmaceutical industry earned $550 billion in annual revenue in 2021.

  • Americans spent $576.9 billion on medicine in 2021.

  • The U.S. is projected to spend $605-$635 billion on medicine in 2025.

  • The U.S.’s pharmaceutical market accounted for 40.8% of the global pharmaceutical market as of 2021.

For further analysis, we broke down the data in the following ways:
The U.S. Economy | Pharmaceutical Companies | Trends + Projections | Best-Selling + Newest Drugs
u.s. pharmaceutical industry revenue 2010-2020

General Pharmaceutical Industry Statistics

  • On average, the FDA approves about 38 drugs each year.

  • The FDA only approves about 12% of drugs submitted for clinical testing.

  • As of 2020, 41% of Americans say they have a fair amount or a great deal of trust in pharmaceutical companies to look out for their best interests.

  • U.S. households spend an average of $442 on over-the-counter medications each year.

  • In 2021, there were about 4.69 billion prescriptions dispensed in the U.S.

  • The U.S. pharmaceutical industry made up 40.8% of the global pharmaceutical market in 2021.

  • u.s. annual retail prescriptions filled

Pharmaceutical Industry Statistics and the Economy

  • As of 2017, the pharmaceutical industry supports over 4 million jobs in the U.S.

    There are only about 811,000 jobs directly in the industry, but over 3.2 million induced and indirect jobs. This means that for every job in the pharmaceutical industry, another 3.98 jobs are supported or created in other industries.

  • Americans spend $576.9 billion on medicine

  • As of 2021, there are an estimated 323,500 pharmacist jobs in the U.S.

    Pharmacists dispense prescription medications and are experts on how to use them safely. They can work in pharmacies in grocery stores, drug stores, or hospitals, and they must be a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and be licensed in order to practice.

    As of 2021, pharmacists earn a median salary of $128,570 a year.

  • In 2015, the pharmaceutical industry contributed about $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy.

    This is the most recently available data, and it accounts for the $558 billion that pharmaceutical businesses earned in revenue and the $659 billion that came from suppliers and spending by the industry’s workers.

  • As of 2021, there are about 447,300 pharmacy technician jobs in the U.S.

    Workers in these positions assist licensed pharmacists with dispensing medications in hospital and retail pharmacies.

    Pharmacy technicians typically go through a postsecondary certificate or on-the-job training program to become licensed to work.

    As of 2021, pharmacy technicians earn a median salary of $36,740 a year.

  • The U.S. pharmaceutical industry made $307.2 billion in domestic revenue and $117.7 billion in international revenue in 2020.

    While domestic revenue continues to grow at a more-or-less steady pace, international revenue has remained relatively stagnant for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry in recent years.

u.s. pharmaceutical industry revenue domestic vs. international 2010-2020

Domestic + International Revenue U.S. Pharmaceutical Industry 2010-2020

Year Total Domestic International
2020 $424 billion $307 billion $117 billion
2019 $429 billion $302 billion $126 billion
2018 $407 billion $280 billion $126 billion
2017 $334 billion $224 billion $109 billion
2016 $321 billion $218 billion $103 billion
2015 $302 billion $202 billion $100 billion
2014 $286 billion $178 billion $107 billion
2013 $282 billion $175 billion $106 billion
2012 $286 billion $178 billion $107 billion
2011 $305 billion $187 billion $117 billion
2010 $291 billion 184 billion $106 billion

Pharmaceutical Statistics by Company

  • Johnson & Johnson is the largest pharmaceutical company in the world by revenue.

    In 2021, Johnson & Johnson earned $93.77 billion in revenue, the most of any pharmaceutical company in the U.S. or the world.

    The company’s 2021 revenue was up from $82.58 billion the year before.

    In addition to pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson works in consumer healthcare and medical devices. The pharmaceutical side of the company is the largest, however, reaching $52 billion in revenue in 2021.

  • Top 5 Pharmaceutical Companies Globally

    Top 5 Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Worldwide by Revenue

    Company 2021 Revenue
    Johnson & Johnson $93.77 billion
    Pfizer $81.29 billion
    Roche $68.7 billion
    AbbVie $56.2 billion
    Novartis $51.63 billion
  • The U.S. has five of the top ten largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

    These, in the order they’re ranked, are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, AbbVie, Merck Co., and Bristol Myers Squibb.

    This is based on the companies’ 2021 revenues, and it includes several multinational organizations that are based in the U.S.

  • In 2020, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spent an estimated $6.58 billion on advertising.

    This is specifically for direct-to-consumer advertising, so it leaves out any efforts like lobbying that the industry also participates in.

    The amount the industry spent on advertising in 2019, $6.56 billion, was roughly the same as it spent in 2020.

  • In 2019, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spent approximately $83 billion on research and design.

    This total only includes companies that are a part of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group, but this group accounts for all of the leading pharmaceutical research companies in the U.S.

    Spending has steadily increased since 2011 and was up from $79.6 billion in 2018.

  • In 2025, the U.S. is projected to spend $605-$635 billion on medicine.

    For perspective, the U.S. spent $426.7 billion on medicine in 2015 and $576.9 billion in 2021.

    Annual spending has gone up steadily since 2012, after a dip from $328 billion to $318 billion between 2011 and 2012.

  • In 2014, there were approximately 5.3 billion prescription medications dispensed in the U.S., versus 5.8 billion in 2018.

    This steady upward trend can also be seen in recent years, most notably in a 2.7% increase in dispensed prescription medications from 2017 to 2018.

    Alongside this 2.7% increase came a 17.1% drop in opioid prescriptions from 2017 to 2018.

  • As of 2018, most drugs being clinically tested are intended to treat cancer and nervous systems disorders.

    There are twice as many drugs in these two therapeutic classes currently being tested as there are in the next three classes combined. These classes are vaccines, pain (including arthritis), and dermatology.

    However, between 2020 and 2021, spending on research and design for vaccines increased significantly as both government and private organizations directed funding toward developing COVID-19 vaccines.

Pharmaceutical Statistics by Drugs

  • In 2021, BioNTech/Pfizer’s Comirnaty was the top-selling drug in the world.

    Comirnaty earned $36.9 billion in sales in 2021, pushing the usual frontrunner, AbbVie’s Humira, down to number two. Comirnaty is a COVID-19 vaccine that was officially approved by the FDA in August 2021. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and the first few waves of mass vaccinations are over, there’s a chance it won’t keep its ranking in the future.

    Humira, on the other hand, was created in 2013 and is designed to treat several diseases, including several different types of arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and plaque psoriasis.

    The drug is anticipated to continue its strong sales in the future, but it may lose some traction in 2023 when its patent expires. This will open the door for other brands to develop similar and generic versions of the medicine and sell them as competition.

  • Top 5 Best-Selling Drugs by 2021 Sales

    Drug 2021 Sales
    Comirnaty $36.9 billion
    Humira $20.7 billion
    Spikevax $17.7 billion
    Keytruda $17.2 billion
    Revlimid $12.8 billion
  • Pfizer’s Lipitor is the top-selling drug overall in the U.S.

    According to data collected from 1992 to 2017, Lipitor made $94.67 billion in sales. That’s nearly $20 billion more than the runner-up, AbbVie’s Humira, which has earned $75.72 billion during that same time frame (although it’s made more than Lipitor has in recent years, putting it at the top of the list of current bestsellers).

    Lipitor is designed to treat high cholesterol and was originally developed by Warner-Lambert, which was bought out by Pfizer in 2000. The drug’s patent expired in 2011, causing sales to reduce as competitors entered the market for the drug.

  • Immunology was the therapeutic drug class with the highest sales revenue in 2020.

    These drugs used to enhance or suppress the immune system had approximately $77 billion in sales.

    The second-highest therapeutic class was antidiabetic drugs, which made $74 billion in sales in the same year.

    Neither of these classes had the highest number of prescriptions, though. First place in that category goes to antihypertensives, which are drugs intended to lower patients’ blood pressure. Even with its high number of prescriptions, this category only earned $7.8 billion in revenue in 2019.

  • The FDA approved 37 new drugs in 2022.

    These include both brand new drugs that will be used clinically for the first time and drugs that are the same or similar to already existing drugs but will serve as competition to those already on the market.

    This number is down significantly from the 50 drugs the FDA approved in 2021.

  • It’s estimated that developing a new prescription medication costs about $2.6 billion.

    This number is from 2019 and includes both the estimated cost of the supplies (worth about $1.4 billion) and time (worth about $1.2 billion) companies have to invest in a new product.

    This includes getting the drug approved by the FDA, but it doesn’t include any research and development that might occur after approval, which is estimated to cost about $312 million.

    This post-approval research and development is intended to create new dosage sizes and regimens, new formulations, and to further research long-term side effects.

Pharmaceutical Industry Statistics FAQ

  1. When did the U.S.’s pharmaceutical industry start?

    The pharmaceutical industry as we know it today started during the 19th century with traveling salesmen and shop owners.

    “Snake oil” salesmen traveled the countryside selling their homemade concoctions, and local pharmacists created their own products to sell to their customers.

    Because these medicines weren’t regulated or standardized and were often ineffective or dangerous, scientists began working to make the industry more reputable during the middle of the 19th century.

    They began developing and manufacturing drugs on a larger scale to distribute standardized, safe drugs across the country through medical professionals. The industry grew from there into what it is today.

  2. Who were some of the scientists who helped create the modern U.S. pharmaceutical industry?

    Charles Pfizer, Charles Erhardt, and Eli Lilly were scientists who helped create the modern U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Their goals were to create safe, “ethical” drugs that had the ingredients printed on the label and were distributed across the country by doctors instead of salesmen.

    To begin accomplishing this goal, Pfizer and Erhardt started a pharmaceutical company in Brooklyn, New York, in 1849. First, they started selling antiparasitic drugs, and after World War I, their company started producing and selling citric acid, gluconic acid, and ascorbic acid. They then moved to mass-producing penicillin during World War II.

    Eli Lilly started his company in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1873. His company developed the first gel pill capsule, revolutionizing how drugs were packaged, extending their shelf life, and improving their ability to be absorbed by the body.

    Both companies mass-produced their products, helping to usher in the pharmaceutical industry as it is today.

  3. Which organizations can approve new drugs in the U.S.?

    The only organization that can approve new drugs in the U.S. is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    The FDA has different processes for over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. For OTC medications, the FDA approves active ingredients and provides parameters for certain types of drugs but doesn’t do any studies beyond that. Some OTCs don’t even need FDA approval.

    On the other hand, prescription medications do need to be thoroughly tested and approved by the FDA before they can hit the market.

  4. What is a therapeutic class?

    A therapeutic class is a group of drugs that are all used to treat a specific medical condition. The oncologic therapeutic class, for example, contains all of the drugs that are used to treat cancer.

  5. How big is the U.S. pharmaceutical industry?

    The U.S. pharmaceutical industry earned $550 billion in annual revenue in 2021. Additionally, the total biopharmaceutical industry is valued at $625 billion and makes up roughly 3.2% of the total U.S. GDP.

    The U.S. pharmaceutical industry also accounts for up to 40.8% of the total global pharmaceutical market, by sales.

  6. Is the pharmaceutical industry growing?

    Yes, the pharmaceutical industry is growing. Between 2021 and 2026, experts predict that the global pharmaceutical industry will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.41%.

  7. How much is the pharmaceutical industry worth?

    The pharmaceutical industry is worth $424 billion. This was the revenue the global industry earned in 2020, down from $429 billion in 2019.


The U.S.’s pharmaceutical industry is a global giant and plays no small role in the U.S. economy, from generating revenue to creating and sustaining jobs.

Consumers may see this play out through the advertisements they see and the prescription and OTC medications they purchase, but what they don’t see is the amount of research and development that goes into creating the drugs they buy.

Companies pay employees to create the compounds, perform extensive clinical testing, and continue to improve the drug over time. The FDA ensures that all testing is done correctly and can put its stamp of approval for drugs to hit the market.

The world of pharmaceuticals is always adjusting as health concerns shift, new best practices are established, and technology improves. It has the power to directly improve or harm a vast number of lives, making it one of the most complex and fascinating industries in the U.S.


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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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