Nov 15, 2017

Health care profits concentrated at drug companies

Ninety-nine of the largest publicly traded health care companies cumulatively collected $33 billion of profit and $577 billion of revenue worldwide in the third quarter this year, according to earnings reports we tracked. Pharmaceutical companies collected more than 60% of those profits, but only 22% of the revenue.

Data: SEC filings; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios
Data: SEC filings; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The bottom line: Drug companies handle a small portion of U.S. and global health care spending, but reap a majority of the overall profit.

Here are other takeaways from our analysis of 2017 third-quarter earnings reports:

  • No health care company netted more profits than Johnson & Johnson, the behemoth maker of drugs, medical devices and consumer products like Band-Aids and Tylenol. Its net profit was $3.8 billion in the quarter.
  • Eight of the 15 highest net profit margins were at drug companies.
  • Twelve of the 15 highest net profit totals were at drug companies.
  • McKesson controlled more health care dollars than any other company, with $52.1 billion of revenue. But lower generic drug prices contributed to the distributor's break-even margin.
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