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Novartis International AG
Public (NYSE: NVS), (virt-x:NOVN)
Founded1996 (from merger)
Headquarters Basel, Switzerland
Key peopleDaniel Vasella (CEO)
ProductsDiovan, Exelon, Lamisil, Gleevec, Lotrel, Zometa, Neoral, Femara Zelnorm, Benefiber, Clomicalm, Voltaren, Tegretol, etc.
RevenueUS$ 37 billion (2006)
Employees100,735 (as of December 31, 2006)


Novartis International AG (NYSE: NVS) is a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland that manufactures drugs such as diclofenac (Voltaren), carbamazepine (Tegretol), valsartan (Diovan), imatinib mesylate (Gleevec / Glivec), cyclosporin A (Neoral / Sandimmun), letrozole (Femara), methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin), terbinafine (Lamisil), etc. Novartis owns Sandoz, a large manufacturer of generic drugs. The company formerly owned the Gerber Products Company, a major infant and baby products producer, but announced in April 2007 it was selling Gerber to Nestlé. Legal responsibility for Gerber was transferred from Novartis to Nestlé on 1 September 2007.[1]



Novartis was created in 1996 from the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz Laboratories, both Swiss companies with long histories. At the time it was said to be the largest corporate merger in history. Ciba-Geigy was formed in 1970 by the merger of J. R. Geigy (founded in Basel in 1758) and Ciba (founded in Basel in 1859). Considering the histories of the merger partners, the company's history spans almost 250 years.[2]


Johann Rudolf Geigy-Gemuseus (1733 – 1793) began trading in 1758 in "materials, chemicals, dyes and drugs of all kinds" in Basel, Switzerland. Johann Rudolf Geigy-Merian (1830 – 1917) and Johann Muller-Pack acquire a site in Basel in 1857, where they build a dyewood mill and a dye extraction plant. Two years later, they begin the production of synthetic fuchsine. In 1901 Geigy is transformed into a public limited company and in 1914, the name of the company is changed to J.R. Geigy Ltd.

In 1859 Alexander Clavel (1805 – 1873) takes up the production of fuchsine in his factory for silk dyeing works in Basel. In 1864, a new site for the production of synthetic dyes is constructed, and in 1873, Clavel sells his dye factory to the new company Bindschedler & Busch. In 1884 Bindschedler & Busch is transformed into a joint-stock company with the name "Gesellschaft für Chemische Industrie Basel" (Company for Chemical Industry Basel). The abbreviation CIBA becomes so widespread that it was adopted as the company's name in 1945.

In 1925 J.R. Geigy Ltd. starts producing textile auxiliaries, an activity which Ciba takes up in 1928.

Ciba and Geigy merged in 1971 to form Ciba‑Geigy Ltd., and this company merged with Sandoz in 1996 to form Novartis.


Sandoz is perhaps best known for synthesizing LSD in 1938. This was later marketed under the trade name Delysid as a psychiatric treatment from 1947 through the early 1960s. The Chemiefirma Kern & Sandoz ("Kern & Sandoz Chemistry Firm") was founded in 1886 by Dr. Alfred Kern (1850-1893) and Edouard Sandoz (1853-1928). The first dyes manufactured there were alizarine blue and auramine. After Kern's death, the partnership was changed to the corporation Chemische Fabrik vormals Sandoz in 1895. The company began producing the fever-reducing drug antipyrin in the same year.

Between the World Wars, Gynergen (1921) and Calcium-Sandoz (1929) were brought to market. Sandoz also produced chemicals for textiles, paper, and leather beginning in 1929. In 1939, they began producing agricultural chemicals.

From 1899, the sugar substitute saccharin was produced. Prior to the merger of Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy to form Novartis in 1996, Sandoz also engaged in drug development. Pharmaceutical research began in 1917 under Professor Arthur Stoll (1887-1971). In 2005, Sandoz expanded significantly though the acquisition of Hexal, one of Germany’s leading generics company, and Eon Labs, a fast-growing U.S. generic pharmaceutical company.

The psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) were discovered at the Sandoz laboratories in 1943 by Albert Hofmann. Sandoz began clinical trials, and marketed the drug under the name Delysid as a psychiatric drug thought useful for treating a wide variety of mental ailments, from alcoholism to sexual deviancy. Sandoz suggested in its literature that psychiatrists take LSD themselves[3], to gain a better subjective understanding of the schizophrenic experience, and many did exactly that. For several years, the psychedelic drugs were also called "psychotomimetic" because they were thought to mimic psychosis. Later research caused this term to be abandoned, as neuroscientists gained a better understanding of psychoses, including schizophrenia. Research on LSD peaked in the 1950s and early 1960s. Sandoz withdrew the drug from the market in the mid 1960s.

Sandoz opened its first foreign offices in 1964.

In 1967, Sandoz merged with Wander AG (known for Ovomaltine and Isostar). Sandoz acquired the companies Delmark, Wasabröd (Swedish manufacturer of crisp bread), and Gerber Products Company baby food makers.

On November 1, 1986, a fire broke out in a production plant storage room, which led to a large amount of pesticide being released into the upper Rhine. This exposure killed many fish.

In 1995, Sandoz spun off its speciality chemicals business to form Clariant. Subsequently, in 1997, Clariant merged with the speciality chemicals business that was spun off from Hoechst in Germany.

After the merger

After the merger, Novartis reorganized its activities, and spun out its chemicals activities as Ciba Specialty Chemicals.

In 1998 the company made headlines with its biotechnology licensing agreement with the UC Berkeley Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Critics of the agreement expressed concern over prospects that the agreement would diminish academic objectivity, or lead to the commercialization of genetically modified plants. The agreement expired in 2003.

Novartis combined its agricultural division with that of AstraZeneca to create Syngenta in November 2000.

In 2003, Novartis created Sandoz, a subsidiary that bundles its generic drug production, reusing the brand of one of its predecessor companies.

On April 20 2006 Novartis acquired the California-based Chiron Corporation. Chiron was formerly divided into three units: Chiron Vaccines and Chiron Blood Testing, which now combine to form Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, and Chiron BioPharmaceuticals, to be integrated into Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

The ongoing Basel Campus Project has the aim to transform the St. Johann site - Novartis headquarters in Basel - "from an industrial complex to a place of innovation, knowledge and encounter". [4]

On 2005, Novartis introduced Certican® (Everolimus), an immunosuppressant. Everolimus is also Novartis' first marketed immunosupressant, after the approval of cyclosporin A.

On October 2006, Novartis introduced Telbivudine, a revolutionary new antiviral drug for hepatitis B.

Challenge to India's patent laws

In 2006, Novartis launched a court case against India seeking to prohibit the country from developing affordable generic drugs based on patented medicines.[5]Novartis had challenged a law that allows India to refuse to recognize a patent for an existing medicine if the formula had been modified only slightly in order to re-patent the drug.[6] Over half of the world's population make less than USD 2.00 a day and millions of people living in poverty around the world depend on Indian generic medicines for their survival. On August 5 2007 an Indian court in Madras ruled against Novartis saying that, "Novartis’ legal challenge - mounted to limit competition to its own patented medicines - was a threat to people suffering from cancer, HIV and AIDS, diabetes and other diseases who are too poor to pay for them."[7] The high court also claimed to have no jurisdiction on whether Indian Patent law complied with WTO patent guidelines.

In the months leading up to the hearing, over half a million people wrote to the CEO of Novartis expressing their opposition to the suit. Novartis has decided not to appeal the ruling.[8]


  1. ^ Gerber: Infant and Baby. Novartis. Retrieved on 2007-02-17.
  2. ^ Company history at Novartis site
  3. ^
  4. ^ Basel Campus Project. Novartis. Retrieved on 2007-10-11.
  5. ^ India's cheap drugs under patent threat. BBC News. Retrieved on 2007-04-07.
  6. ^ Indian ruling against pharmaceutical giant Novartis a victory for public health
  7. ^ Ibid. Patients before Profits.
  8. ^ Ibid. Make Trade Fair.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Novartis". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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