Pharmaceutical giants Dechra Pharmaceuticals (LSE: DPH) and GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) took divergent paths in Monday morning business despite both releasing positive updates. Dechra was last 2% higher and within striking distance of fresh all-time highs after full-year results cheered the market. But its pill-making peer was dealing 0.5% lower in spite of upbeat pipeline news.

But which is the better long-term selection?

Animal magic

Veterinary specialist Dechra’s M&A-led strategy seems to be paying off handsomely, at least according to its latest full-year results.

The business saw revenues gallop 21.7% higher during the year to June 2016, it advised, to £247.6m. This helped underlying operating profit advance 20.9% year-on-year, to £52.9m, prompting Dechra to raise the total dividend 9% to 18.46p per share.

The animal care provider made three key acquisitions during the period to bolster its long-term earnings prospects by entering hot new product areas and substantially broadening its global footprint. Indeed, the purchase of US giant Putney in April for £134.2m significantly boosts Dechra’s product pipeline – the unit currently has 10 generic products slated for release during the next five years.

Breathe easy

And GlaxoSmithKline’s rejuvenated R&D operations also released great news on Monday.

The Brentford firm announced that its Salford Lung Study — carried out in partnership with Innoviva — to test its Relvar Ellipta drug showed a “statistically significant reduction… in the rate of moderate or severe exacerbations compared with patients receiving ‘usual care’.

GlaxoSmithKline has made chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) one of the cornerstones of its growth ambitions. The company is also carrying out a second Salford Lung Study for asthma sufferers, with results due sometime in 2017.

So which stock takes it?

GlaxoSmithKline certainly trumps Dechra Pharmaceuticals when it comes to delivering superior bang for your buck. The business deals on a forward P/E ratio of 17.1 times, nudging above the FTSE 100 average of 15 times but beating Dechra’s reading of 25.3 times.

And GlaxoSmithKline’s 4.9% dividend yield smashes the big-cap average of 3.5% by some margin. By comparison, Dechra carries a more-modest 1.4% yield.

But sales growth rates at Dechra continue to dwarf those currently printed over at GlaxoSmithKline. While the latter has also remained busy on the M&A front, sales at the firm grew 11% during January-June, some way below recent revenues expansion at the animal therapy provider.

Still, I expect revenues at GlaxoSmithKline to pick up in the years ahead as its product pipeline delivers the goods. Indeed, the business plans to roll out 40 new drugs between now and 2025 to replace those still being battered by patent expirations.

I believe both Dechra and GlaxoSmithKline’s exhilarating progress in fast-growing therapy areas make them white-hot candidates for those seeking explosive earnings expansion in the years ahead.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended GlaxoSmithKline. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.