The Three Pharma Giants With the Best Pipelines

J&J, Novartis, and Roche get an “A” for effort

Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Roche boast the strongest pipelines among the industry’s top players, according to a report from The Motley Fool. Here’s what sets these drug makers apart from their peers.

Johnson & Johnson

At last count, more than 30 late-stage drugs were in J&J’s pipeline spanning five major therapeutic categories, according to the article. One especially promising candidate is sirukumab, a monoclonal antibody, which the company submitted to the FDA in September 2016 for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. J&J won’t reap the benefits, however, if sirukumab is approved. GlaxoSmithKline has licensed the North American commercialization rights.

Another strong J&J contender is daratumumab (Darzelex), another monoclonal antibody, which won FDA approval in November 2016 for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma who have received three or more prior therapies. J&J is currently conducting three late-state studies of daratumumab as a frontline therapy for multiple myeloma in combination with other drugs.

In addition, J&J is working to close a deal with Actelion Pharmaceuticals that would add several promising experimental drugs to the company’s arsenal. These potential treatments include a pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) drug, macitentan, and a new multiple sclerosis candidate, ponesimod.


Novartis is awaiting regulatory permission to initiate clinical-development programs for a dozen potential therapies, including seven experimental cancer drugs and three biosimilars, according to Motley Fool. In 2014, the company’s cancer pipeline was strengthened after a deal was made to buy much of GlaxoSmithKline’s oncology portfolio.

During the next few years, Novartis plans to seek regulatory approval for new indications for the autoimmune disease drug secukinumab (Cosentyx); the cancer drug ruxolitinib (Jakavi); the eye-disease drug ranibizumab (Lucentis), and the leukemia drug nilotinib (Tasigna), among others.

In addition, the company’s pipeline includes several other promising compounds, such as INC280 for non–small-cell lung cancer; LCI699 for Cushing's disease; and RLX030 for acute heart failure.


Roche recently won regulatory approval for its multiple sclerosis treatment ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), which is expected to generate peak annual sales of more than $3 billion, according to Motley Fool.

Some of the company’s most-important studies are for combination regimens involving approved drugs. Cancer medication atezolizumab (Tecentriq), for example, is being assessed in more than a dozen studies in combination with other treatments, and venetoclax (Venclexta), another cancer drug, is being evaluated in at least four combination trials.

Roche’s current pipeline includes one questionable treatment: the experimental hemophilia drug emicizumab. Although a patient died in a clinical study of the drug, the death was determined to be unrelated to active treatment. However, patients receiving emicizumab have experienced severe adverse events in other late-study studies.

Beyond 2018, Roche has the potential to submit 25 drugs for regulatory approval, according to the Motley Fool article. The most-notable candidates include an autoimmune-disease drug, etrolizumab, and an experimental Alzheimer’s drug, gantenerumab. 

Source: Motley Fool; April 10, 2017.