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Merck KGaA (EMD Chemicals in the United States and Canada, ) is a Germanmarker-based chemical and pharmaceutical company. Merck (also referred to as “German Merck” or “Merck Darmstadt”) was founded in Darmstadtmarker, Germany, in 1668 and is one of the oldest still-operating chemical/pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company was privately owned until going public in 1995. However, the Merck family still controls a majority of the company's shares.

Following World War I, Merck lost possession of its foreign sites, including the Merck & Co. subsidiary in the United Statesmarker. Merck & Co., called Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) outside the US and Canadamarker, is now an independent company.

Merck KGaA operates mainly in Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. Since Merck & Co. holds the rights to the Merck name in the U.S. and Canada, the company operates under the umbrella brand EMD Chemicals in North America, formed from the initials of Emanuel Merck, Darmstadtmarker.

History

The roots of Merck reach back into the 17th Century. In 1668, Friedrich Jacob Merck, an apothecary, assumed ownership of the "Engel-Apotheke" (Angel Pharmacy) in Darmstadtmarker, Germanymarker.

In 1816, Emanuel Merck took over the pharmacy. Thanks to his scientific education he was successful in isolating and characterizing alkaloids in the pharmacy laboratory. He began the manufacture of these substances "in bulk" in 1827, touting them as a "Cabinet of Pharmaceutical and Chemical Innovations". He and his successors gradually built up a chemical-pharmaceutical factory that produced — in addition to raw materials for pharmaceutical preparations — a multitude of other chemicals and (from 1890) medicines.

In 1891, Georg Merck established himself in the United Statesmarker and set up Merck & Co. in New Yorkmarker, USA. Merck & Co. was confiscated following the First World War and set up as an independent company in the United States. Today, the US company has about 70,000 employees in 120 countries and 31 factories worldwide. It is one of the top 5 pharmaceutical companies worldwide, much larger than its German ancestor, which employs around 30,962 people in 62 countries (as of September 30 2007).
Merck KGaA's Headquarters in Darmstadt (Germany)

Failed Schering AG bid

On March 13, 2006, Merck announced a takeover bid for Schering AGmarker, the world's largest producer of oral contraceptives. On March 23, 2006, Bayer AG made a supported offer for Schering and Merck decided to drop out of the bidding for the company. Schering is not to be confused with Schering-Plough which was once part of Schering AG but is now an independently operated American pharmaceutical company, itself in the process of being acquired by Merck & Co. in 2009.

Acquisition of Serono

In September 2006 the company announced a takeover bid of $13.2 billion for Serono SA, Switzerland's largest biotech firm. The deal included a buy-out of the Bertarelli family's 64.5% stake in Serono to be followed by a public tender offer for the remaining shares starting in November. The combined company has an R&D budget of approximately $1.1 billion and sales of approximately $4.6 billion. Its approximately $2 billion in sales of biologics would make it 7th among pharmaceutical/biotech companies. The new entity, Merck Serono, began operations in 2007.

Operations

Pharmaceuticals

After Wilhelm Adam Sertürner's isolation of morphine from opium in 1805, Merck pioneered (from 1827) the commercial manufacture of morphine for an expanding global market. From 1884 onwards, Merck also played role in the production and marketing of cocaine. Sigmund Freud, author of Über Coca (1884), was an enthusiastic collaborator in Merck's coca research, though the methodological sophistication of his self-experimentation studies has been challenged.Around World War I, Merck systematically patented many drugs including MDMA (ecstasy) [55693] and several of its analogues, though no uses for them were given. Attention was directed at vitamins as a new product category, and Vigantol was introduced in 1927, followed by Cebion in 1934.

Following the defeat of Germanymarker in World War II, Merck was granted permission by the military government to produce drugs, pesticides, food preservatives, reagents, and fine chemicals for laboratory use. Soon afterwards the boom commonly known as the "Wirtschaftswunder" (economic miracle) set in. For Merck this meant two-digit sales-growth figures for many years. Products of this time included corticoid preparations — for example Fortecortin, which is still used today —, the cold remedy Nasivin or the hormone preparations Gestafortin and Menova.

The focus of Merck's current pharmaceutical R&D is on oncology and cardio-metabolic care. In the former therapeutic area, its first marketed product is Erbitux (cetuximab), for which it has marketing rights worldwide, apart from North America. (Cetuximab was discovered by Imclone Systems, and is marketed in North America by Bristol-Myers Squibb.) Other products from Merck include Metformin, Bisoprolol, Levothyroxine and Digitoxin.

Chemicals

In the chemicals sector, work started on pearl-lustre pigments in 1957. Ten years later the company initiated its involvement in liquid crystals, leading to its market leading role today. Liquid crystals account for the bulk of Merck's profits at present.

In the area of analytical chemistry, Merck played a leading role in the development of chromatographic methods.

Price fixing settlement

Generics UK, a former Britishmarker subsidiary of German drugs firm Merck (global Generics business sold by Merck October 2 2007) paid a £12m out-of-court settlement with the Department of Health over involvement in an alleged price and supply fixing cartel.

The NHS alleges various drugs companies exploited the oligopolistic market conditions, forcing the NHS to pay inflated prices. NHS fraud investigators believe there was a conspiracy to limit the supply of 30 of its most commonly prescribed drugs, including a class of penicillin antibiotics and to a generic version of best-selling ulcer treatment Zantac. The NHS has so far filed claims in relation to just three drugs, seeking damages of more than £150m, while the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is conducting a parallel investigation into the price-fixing allegations limited to the supply of blood-thinning pill warfarin and penicillin-based antibiotics. Homes and offices of executives at six firms, including Ranbaxy, Generics UK, Norton Healthcare, Goldshield and Regent-GM.were raided by the SFO in May 2002.

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