GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) are two of the bigger names in healthcare, and they're great options for investors looking to add safe stocks to their portfolios. They have strong fundamentals, and as these two drug manufacturers continue to produce new and exciting medicines, they'll also provide investors with long-term growth.

Let's look at how they've been doing of late to see which stock has the edge today.

Does Eli Lilly offer investors enough growth?

One of the big challenges for Eli Lilly in recent years has been its struggle to generate much growth. Sales of $24.6 billion in 2018 were up a modest 7.4% from 2017's tally of $22.9 billion. And they've only grown 25% since 2014, when Eli Lilly reported revenue of $19.6 billion. The positive is that the company's bottom line has remained in the black in four of the past five years, with the only blemish relating to a large income tax bill in 2017. 

But lack of sales growth is what's kept the stock down for much of the year. Although the company beat earnings forecasts in Q3 when it released its results in October, the stock still failed to impress investors. That's because one of its key drugs, Taltz, which treats autoimmune diseases, generated just $340 million, well shy of the $400 million expected by analysts.

Total revenue growth for the quarter was just 3.2% with sales reaching $5.5 billion. One area that continued to do well for the company was endocrinology, where sales from that segment were up 10.8% from the prior-year quarter.

Prescription medication poured out from a bottle.

Image source: Getty Images.

Eli Lilly got a boost in its share price in December when CFO Josh Smiley updated investors with guidance for 2020. The company anticipates sales for this coming year between $23.6 billion and $24.1 billion, which will be around a 7% increase from the $22 billion to $22.5 billion that the company anticipates it will finish 2019 with.

Is GlaxoSmithKline the safer bet?

One area that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) hasn't struggled with is growing its sales. The company released its Q3 results in October, which saw revenue growth of 16% from the prior-year quarter, totaling $9.4 billion British pounds ($12.2 billion). The company upgraded its forecast, no longer expecting profits for the year to decline between 3% to 5% and instead expecting its bottom line to be in line with the prior year's results. 

A driving force behind the strong performance has been the strong success of shingles vaccine Shingrix, which saw sales grow 76% during the quarter, coming in higher than analysts were expecting.

There's still a lot more in the works for GSK. Its ovarian cancer drug Zejula has been making progress, with the Food and Drug Administration approving it for use in the treatment of ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancer. The company has a total of 41 medicines currently in development. In October, GSK filed a new drug application for Trelegy Ellipta, a single-inhaler triple therapy to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, which the company says will make the treatment option the first of its kind in the U.S. market.

GSK has the edge for multiple reasons

With many products in the works and the company showing better growth numbers than Eli Lilly, GSK makes a lot of sense for investors on many fronts. Its forward P/E of 15 also makes it a better-value buy than Lilly, which has a forward P/E of over 19. GSK's dividend yield of 4.2% is an added bonus for investors, since it's well above the S&P 500 average of 2% and higher than Eli Lilly's yield of 2.3%.

Both of these healthcare stocks are good options for investors, but GSK is the better buy when factoring in its recent results, dividend yield, and overall valuation.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.