They provide hope for the treatment and cure of countless conditions - from cancer to the common cold. Pharmaceutical companies are also some of the most profitable in the world, and constantly look for new ways to stay competitive.
The US drug maker Pfizer is trying to buy AstraZeneca for close to $100 billion. That would be the industry's biggest-ever takeover.
Valeant is currently offering to buy Allergan - the maker of Botox in a deal worth $48.7 billion. And Novartis has agreed to buy GlaxoSmithKline's cancer drugs for as much as $16 billion, while selling its vaccines division to GSK and its animal health unit to Eli Lilly.
But will it mean more affordable drugs? Is the current recalibration of the pharmaceutical industry a prescription for better healthcare? And how do drug firms balance the need for profit and new products?
Presenter: Hazem Sika
Gustav Ando - director of Life Sciences for IHS, and a specialist on mergers and acquisitions
Rohit Malpani - director of Policy and Analysis for Doctors Without Borders' Access Campaign
Source: Al Jazeera