During a record year of consolidation and markets rocked by drug-pricing controversies, the U.K.’s big three health-care companies embarked on deals in inverse proportion to their size: GlaxoSmithKline Plc announced about $650 million in transactions while AstraZeneca Plc’s total approached $7.8 billion and Shire Plc about $47 billion. All three ended the year with similar returns:

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Here’s what lies ahead in 2016 for each company:

  • GlaxoSmithKline: CEO Andrew Witty will attend both the J.P. Morgan health-care conference in San Francisco and the World Economic Forum in Davos this month. Shares of the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker have tumbled more than 20 percent since mid-2013. With generics snapping at the heels of its best-selling lung drug Advair, Glaxo has been touting new medicines while shunning large-scale M&A deals.

  • AstraZeneca: After spurning a takeover by Pfizer Inc. in 2014, CEO Pascal Soriot has built the company up with small- to mid-sized acquisitions and licensing deals, focusing on drugs for cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes. Generic versions of its blockbuster cholesterol pill Crestor will hit the market in May. Results from several key cancer drug trials are expected in the second half of this year.

  • Shire: The smallest of the three companies is said to be in advanced talks with Baxalta Inc. to become the world’s biggest maker of rare-disease drugs. Shares have dropped 21 percent since Aug. 3, the day before its $30 billion offer for Baxalta was made public. On the product front, Shire awaits U.S. approval of a key drug for dry-eye disease called lifitegrast, expected late this year.
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