You're not alone if you're afraid of a looming market crash. While there's no way to predict what's going to happen with the ongoing bear market, it's definitely quite disturbing to think your portfolio could take a big hit on top of the grinding downward journey we've experienced this year. 

However, especially if you have some investable cash on hand, the good news is that there are a few businesses that should retain most of their value during a crash, if one occurs. Specifically, there are a pair of pharmaceutical companies whose roster of in-demand medicines makes their prospects better than most in the face of market turbulence of any kind, so let's analyze each and see why they could be a smart pickup for some downside protection.

1. Pfizer

Pfizer (PFE -0.99%) is a company that needs no introduction, especially not after its rapid development and commercialization of Comirnaty, its coronavirus vaccine. Besides making medicines like Comirnaty, which management anticipates will pull in $32 billion for 2022, it also has other drugs worth tens of billions of dollars per year, like Paxlovid, an antiviral pill for coronavirus infections. Paxlovid is expected to sell $22 billion this year, and it should push the company's top line to between $98 billion and $102 billion. And as long as SARS-CoV-2 is circulating -- and it will be -- demand for those two products will be significant, though it might be hard to beat this year's haul.

Furthermore, Pfizer has a veritable cornucopia of other medicines that people rely on, too. It's also an expert at efficiently manufacturing its products and distributing them globally, which makes it into a free cash flow (FCF) machine. In the last three years, its quarterly FCF burgeoned by 106.6%. And in a crash, investors fleeing to quality companies are far more likely to arrive at companies with strongly positive cash flows. 

With a growing source of extra capital like that, it's no surprise the pharmaceutical company opts to return some to shareholders and invest in research and development (R&D) to pave the way for future top-line growth. So far this year, it spent $2 billion on stock repurchases, and in the aftermath of a market crash, it could even buy back more of its own shares at a discount to stem losses.

2. AstraZeneca

Like Pfizer, AstraZeneca (AZN -0.05%) is a multinational pharmaceutical business, but with 2021 revenue of $36.5 billion, it's much smaller. Its near-term prospects are quite strong thanks to its recent launch of several medicines in a handful of different regions. Just to name a few of its many new commercialization efforts, there's Enhertu, which treats breast cancer and got an approval in the U.S. and E.U. earlier this year; Tezspire for severe asthma, which was approved in Japan in late September; and Ultomiris for generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG), which E.U. regulators also approved in the same timeframe as Tezpire.

All of those projects are likely to bring in lots of money over the next few years. But there's also a huge number of late-stage programs in AstraZeneca's pipeline, 16 of which are in late-stage clinical trials, so they could be out the door before 2025 if things go according to plan. And that's why the average total revenue estimate for 2023 by financial analysts covering the company is $46.3 billion.

While AstraZeneca experienced a couple of unprofitable quarters recently, that hasn't stopped the company from outperforming the market over the last three years, with its shares rising by 41.8% compared to the market's increase of 34.6%. Plus, with a top line that's expected to widen in the near term and more on the way shortly thereafter due to a slew of new medicines hitting the market, investors won't be at a paucity of catalysts for their shares to gain value. These catalysts also give the stock multiple chances to pop, even in the wake of a crash.