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Rating and Ranking "Stealth Pharmas"

A "stealth pharma," according to the folks at Pharmaceutical Executive, is any drug company that's not a Big Pharma. In other words, it's grab-bag of outfits that includes everything from specialty pharmas hawking retread drugs to biotechs to generics makers.

Which, of course, makes them difficult to characterize. So it's fascinating to see Bill Trombetta, a professor of pharmaceutical marketing at St. Joseph's University who I believe is also on PharmExec's advisory board, give it a shot. For the second year running, Trombetta offers a quantitative look at how 12 stealth pharmas stack up according to a variety of performance metrics, some of which yield some interesting results.

Since Trombetta's not trying to be comprehensive, he's free to offer a sort of impressionistic snapshot of this part of the industry, starting with the 12 companies he chose to examine -- a list that runs the gamut from comparative giants like Gilead Sciences and Novo Nordisk to mid-sized pharmas like Allergan and generics makers such as Mylan and Teva.

PharmExec enterprise value/salesAnyone interested in this sort of thing should probably read the whole article, but here are some of Trombetta's highlights:

  • When measured by "enterprise value to sales" -- effectively a proxy for expected future value, normalized by revenues -- the biotechs Celgene and Gilead vastly outpace not only their "stealth pharma" competitors, but also biotech giants Genentech and Biogen Idec and the rest of Big Pharma.
  • Celgene and Gilead also posted stellar revenue growth, although generics-makers Barr and Teva did also.
  • In terms of profits-to-assets -- or, in more common terms, return on assets -- Gilead topped the heap, substantially ahead of No. 2 Novo Nordisk.
All told, Trombetta concludes, AIDS-drug maker Gilead is "the best-kept secret in the industry." Which makes it all the more curious that PharmExec managed to snub Gilead's under-45 executives in its recent future-leaders-of-pharma feature.
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