Types of Pharmaceutical Companies

by Teresa O'Hanlon; Updated September 26, 2017
Pharmacuetical companies are defined by product profitablity.

The pharmaceutical industry researches, develops and manufactures thousands of medications for a variety of diseases and health conditions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are three main types of pharmaceutical companies: mainline, research and development, and generic.


Larger drug companies are mainline firms.

Large and established pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer and Novartis, have a large number of drugs on the market. These mainline pharmaceutical firms have internationally acclaimed research and development laboratories and a large number of manufacturing plants.

Research and Development

Drug compaines collaborate.

Smaller research and development pharmaceutical companies may not have any approved drugs on the market, but continue to focus on research, such as clinical trial observation. Research and development firms may also be subcontractors for mainline companies requiring additional research support.


Patent expiration saves consumer pocketbooks.

A number of drugs on the market no longer have patent protection.Generic pharmaceutical companies bring these drugs back to the market after patent expiration as less expensive versions.

About the Author

Based in Northern California, Teresa O’Hanlon has been writing and editing news and feature stories since 1986. She writes for LIVESTRONG.COM, "The Placer Herald" and "The Auburn Journal." O'Hanlon has a special interest in health education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in media communications from California State University-Sacramento.

Photo Credits

  • blue granulated pharmaceutic image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com
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