GSK - or GlaxoSmithKline as it was officially until 2022 - is one of Europe's leading pharmaceutical developers but like its peers, it has been wrestling with the triple threats of generic competition, ever more rigorous regulatory scrutiny, and the challenge of keeping its drug development pipeline filled. GSK's problems were, arguably, more serious than some of its rivals, resulting in its demotion from the coveted position as global #2 several years ago. It now lags behind several Swiss and American rivals by overall revenues. Recently, the group has been tweaking its broadly diversified portfolio in order to specialise on a smaller number of key pharmaceutical segments, primarily respiratory, HIV drugs (through specialist unit ViiV Healthcare in which Pfizer and Shinogi of Japan are minority shareholders) and vaccines. Combined sales from prescription pharmaceuticals rose to £17.7bn in 2021, but vaccines fell for the second consecutive year to £6.8bn. A notable and unexpected weakness in 2020 was the group's lack of early success in developing a Covid vaccine through its highly touted partnership with another vaccine leader Sanofi. Dosing errors forced the partners back to the drawing board towards the end of the year, but a non-vaccine antibody treatment Xevudy was finally authorised in 2021. By US$ equivalent sales, GSK had nine blockbuster brands in 2021: HIV treatments Triumeq (sales of £1.9bn), Tivicay (£1.4bn) and new launch Dovato (£787m); respiratory drugs including Seretide/Advair (£1.4bn), the Ellipta inhaler family including Relvar, Trelegy, Incruse & Anoro (combined sales of £3.1bn) and Nucala (a new entrant at £1.1bn); Covid antibody Xevudy (£958m), lupus treatment Benlysta (£874m) and shingles vaccine Shingrix (£1.7bn). Respiratory drugs account for 41% of the group's pharmaceutical sales and HIV drugs for 27%. Other significant pharma products, though now mostly in slow decline post-patent, include Ventolin, Lamictal, Augmentin and Avodart. Key vaccines include pediatric vaccine Infanrix/Pediarix and Bexsero against meningitis as well as vaccines against hepatitis and influenza. In 2019, GSK acquired oncology biotech developer Tesoro for $5.0bn. A lift from Pfizer's newly consolidated OTC division, especially as a result of pandemic-related consumer buying, boosted group revenues to a new high in 2020 of £34.1bn. However, sales for 2021 were unchanged (an increase in pharma was offset by declines in vaccines and consumer health), while net income fell back to £5.1bn from £6.4bn the year before (which had included a large profit on the sale of nutritional beverage Horlicks and other non-core brands). GSK Consumer Healthcare is now the global #1 in its sector (see separate page), but is expected to be spun off as a separate company during 2022. Former OTC chief Emma Walmsley became group CEO in 2017, the first woman ever to lead a Big Pharma company. She was ennobled in 2020, becoming Dame Emma Walmsley.
Capsule checked 26th February 2021
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Historical profile information for GlaxoSmithKline
Adbrands Update 6th Jun 2022: GSK is boosting its vaccine business with a deal to acquire US rival Affinivax for up to $3.3bn (depending on future performance). An offshoot of Boston Children's Hospital, Affinivax has developed a new vaccine technology to fight common bacterial diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia, especially among children. This will be GSK's biggest deal since it acquired Novartis's vaccine business in 2015.
Adbrands Update 14th Apr 2022: GlaxoSmithKline is bolstering its oncology pipeline with a deal to acquire US firm Sierra Technology for $1.9bn. The target company is developing a promising drug for patients with anemia caused by a rare form of bone cancer. It is due for review by the FDA imminently. Assuming it's approved, analysts believe sales could reach as much as $630m a year by 2030.
Adbrands Update 23rd Feb 2022: GlaxoSmithKline has unveiled the brand identity of its soon-to-be-separated consumer healthcare spin-off. The demerged entity will be named Haleon, "inspired by the words 'Hale', which is an old English word that means 'in good health' and Leon, which is associated with the word 'strength'." The split is expected mid-2022, with GSK expected to spin off at least 80% of the equity in the business to its existing shareholders.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Apr 2020: Two of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers - Glaxo SmithKline and Sanofi - announced an unprecedented partnership to develop a product to fight Coronavirus. Sanofi is to revive an antigen that was originally created to battle SARS, while GSK will contribute its "adjuvant" technology which boosts the immune response in recipients. Crucially, their combined manufacturing capacity could allow them to create hundreds of millions of doses by mid-2021. The two companies are respectively the global leader in vaccines and the #4 (after Merck & Pfizer). However, first the companies will have to ensure that any product they develop works. This will require rigorous testing that is unlikely to yield results until the end of this year. "Starting with proven pandemic technologies definitely improves the odds," said Roger Connor, president of GSK's vaccines division. "The world wants to see confirmation that the challenge is being solved, but as with all research there's risk involved with this." At the same time, GSK CEO Emma Walmsley stressed that multiple companies will need to develop different vaccines against the disease. "We're all hoping and we believe the world is going to need more than one vaccine as part of the solution."
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Dec 2019: Glaxo SmithKline concluded its global creative and media review. Creative duties for the global prescription drug portfolio will be consolidated between Interpublic and Publicis, both already the company's main marketing partners. There have been some changes to their respective client portfolios. IPG gets the key growth segments of oncology and vaccines, with McCann Health and MRM as lead agencies, supported by FCB Health and other group agencies. An as-yet-unnamed Publicis Groupe unit will handle the substantial respiratory drug business. Meanwhile, WPP's CMI/Compas retains GSK's US pharmaceutical media. GSK's OTC business transferred to Publicis Media's newly created PlatformGSK unit at the beginning of the year. Following completion of GSK Consumer Healthcare's acquisition of the Pfizer OTC portfolio, PlatformGSK also now takes control of those brands from Carat and other agencies.
Adbrands Daily Update 5th Dec 2018: Hot on the heels of its deal to sell its nutritional drinks portfolio to Unilever, GSK signed off on the purchase of US drug developer Tesaro for $5.1bn. That company's portfolio includes Zejula, a new type of cancer drug known as a PARP inhibitor, competing with AstraZeneca's Lynparza. It marks GSK's return to the oncology market after it sold its previous collection of drugs to Novartis four years ago.
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Oct 2018: Not the best of weeks for WPP. Four big reviews ended in partial or total losses for the group. First up was GlaxoSmithKline's global media. GroupM handled most of the account worldwide, split between Mediacom, Mindshare and Essence. Omnicom's PHD had the US, Australia and New Zealand. However, the pharma group has chosen Publicis to carry forward the account, in a newly created dedicated unit, PlatformGSK.
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