Increases in the cost of research, specialization and reductions in public expenditure in health are changing the economic environment for the pharmaceutical industry. Gains in productivity and efficiency are increasingly important in order for firms to succeed in this environment. We analyze empirically the performance of efficiency in the pharmaceutical industry over the period 2010–2018. We work with microdata from a large sample of European firms of different characteristics regarding size, main activity, country of origin and other idiosyncratic features. We compute efficiency scores for the firms in the sample on a yearly basis by means of non-parametric data envelopment analysis (DEA) techniques. Basic results show a moderate average level of efficiency for the firms which encompass the sample. Efficiency is higher for companies which engage in manufacturing and distribution than for firms focusing on research and development (R&D) activities. Large firms display higher levels of efficiency than medium-size and small firms. Our estimates point to a decreasing pattern of average efficiency over the years 2010–2018. Furthermore, we explore the potential correlation of efficiency with particular aspects of the firms’ performance. Profit margins and financial solvency are positively correlated with efficiency, whereas employee costs display a negative correlation. Institutional aspects of the countries of origin also influence efficiency levels.
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