Our Pharmaceuticals business discovers, develops and makes medicines to treat a broad range of the world's most common acute and chronic diseases.


The business generated sales of £14.2 billion in 2015, representing 60% of the total turnover of the Group.

The business is made up of innovative and established medicines and holds leading positions in respiratory disease and HIV. Our Pharmaceuticals R&D organisation drives the discovery and development in several core areas of research: HIV and infectious diseases, oncology, immuno-inflammation, respiratory and rare diseases.

Global sales by therapy area (2015)
Respiratory 5,741
Cardiovascular, metabolic and urology 858
Immuno-inflammation 263
Oncology* 255
Other pharmaceuticals 2,199
Established products 2,528
ViiV Healthcare (HIV) 2,322

*Representing sales prior to the divestment of the Oncology business unit to Novartis in March 2015

Our marketplace

The global pharmaceuticals market is vast. The biggest areas of growth over recent years have been from the emerging markets and Asia Pacific regions. 

This trend of increasing demand is expected to continue as the world’s population grows, economies in the emerging markets become more prosperous and global changes in lifestyles affect long-term health.

Our strategy

Our Pharmaceuticals business creates value by researching and manufacturing innovative products and making these as widely accessible as possible to countries at all levels of income and development.

While we continue to have a strong presence in developed markets such as the USA and Europe, we are increasing investment in emerging markets, including Africa, where we see significant growth potential.

Our Pharmaceuticals portfolio

Our portfolio is made up of innovative and established medicines and we have leading global positions in respiratory disease and HIV.

We have been a leader in respiratory disease for over 40 years and have a portfolio of mature products. In recent years, we have strengthened and broadened our respiratory portfolio with the addition of new medicines including an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) and long-acting beta 2 agonist (LABA) combination, a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) and LABA dual bronchodilator.

Our HIV business is managed through ViiV Healthcare, a global specialist company in HIV that we have majority share, with Pfizer and Shionogi as the other shareholders. ViiV Healthcare is now a leading global company in HIV and has had significant recent success with regulatory approval and industry leading launches of new medicines. ViiV Healthcare has a number of other antiretroviral medicines in clinical development.

In addition to respiratory and HIV, we have a portfolio of other innovative Pharmaceutical products for the treatment of conditions such as lupus, benign prostatic hyperplasia and bacterial infections.

We also have an Established Products Portfolio (EPP) which includes mature medicines in the areas of anti-infectives, allergy, central nervous system, dermatology, respiratory and urology. These products are an important part of our Emerging Markets business where the GSK brand is an important differentiator.

Focus on best science

If we are to continue to discover new medicines and get them to the patients who need them as quickly as possible, we must invest in research. In 2015, 74% (£2.3 billion) of our total R&D spend (£3.1 billion) was invested into the search for new pharmaceutical medicines. Our strategy is to increase our productivity in R&D and improve our rate of innovation, while controlling our costs. Our estimated internal rate of return (IRR) in 2015 was 13%.

The journey to discovering and developing new medicines is lengthy, expensive and subject to a high rate of failure. Learn more about how we discover new medicines in our global website.

We are exploring different approaches to promote – and speed up – innovation in our labs. Having broken down the traditional, industrialised R&D model, our scientists now work in smaller units focused on specific areas of research. This encourages greater entrepreneurialism and accountability. These groups are tasked with seeking out the biological targets involved in disease and creating molecules or biopharmaceuticals that will ultimately become new medicines. 

We also know that we won’t discover everything inside our own labs and that we need to partner with other companies, academic institutions and research charities. We currently have research collaborations with more than 3,000 external organisations and this number is growing every year.

We also recognise our responsibility to meet society’s expectations to invest in disease areas where the science is difficult or where the typical business model to reward innovation may not be relevant; one example being our antibiotics research. We are also one of the few healthcare companies researching the World Health Organization’s three priority diseases - HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.