Big pharma's best stocks have had myriad troubles over the past decade. Patent expirations of top-selling drugs have cut away at top lines of the biggest names in the business, and tightening hospital budgets in the aftermath of the recession haven't helped. Despite the downbeat atmosphere, however, three of big pharma's biggest names have made the most of the last 10 years.

No big pharma stock's risen like Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) over the last decade. Novo has focused in on treating diabetes, one of the world's biggest public health issues -- particularly in emerging markets, where Novo Nordisk has done a great job establishing itself as one of the top drug sellers. That dominance in the diabetes market and in developing economies, along with other factors, has helped Novo emerge as the top big pharma stock of the last decade.

But Novo's not the only stock capitalizing despite the recession and the patent cliff. In the video below, Motley Fool contributor Dan Carroll takes you through three of big pharma's best stocks over the past 10 years, including Novo, and whether these three picks can keep up their runs into the future.

Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.