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Hoffmann–La Roche

F. Hoffmann–La Roche Ltd. is a Swiss global health-care company that operates worldwide under two divisions: Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. Its holding company, Roche Holding AG, has shares listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange (SIX: ROG).

The company headquarters are located in Basel and the company has many sites around the world – including: Nutley, NJ, Palo Alto, California, Pleasanton, Branchburg, Fishers, Indiana,Florence, South Carolina, Boulder, Colorado and Ponce, Puerto Rico in the US, Welwyn Garden City and Burgess Hill in the UK, Clarecastle in Ireland, Mannheim and Penzberg in Germany,Mississauga and Laval in Canada, and Shanghai in China.

The company also owns the American biotechnology company Genentech, which is a wholly owned subsidiary, and the Japanese biotechnology company Chugai Pharmaceuticals as well as the Tucson, Arizona based Ventana.

Roche’s revenues during fiscal year 2008 were CHF 49.05 billion.[1] Descendants of the founding Hoffmann and Oeri families own half of the company.[1] Swiss pharma firm Novartis owns 33% of the company.[1]

F. Hoffmann–La Roche is a full member of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).[3]



  • 1 History
  • 2 Creation of the first anti-depressant
  • 3 Vitamin price fixing
  • 4 Products
  • 5 Oseltamivir Controversy
  • 6 Collaborative research
  • 7 Additional key persons
  • 8 Bibliography
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links


Founded in 1896 by Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche, the company was early on known for producing various vitamin preparations and derivatives. In 1934, it became the first company to mass produce synthetic vitamin C, under the brand name Redoxon. In 1957 it introduced the class oftranquilizers known as benzodiazepines (with Valium and Rohypnol being the best known members). Its acne drug isotretinoin, marketed as Accutane and Roaccutane, also used as a form of chemotherapy for some cancers, has been linked with a number of severe side effects and remains highly controversial but highly effective at the same time. Roche has also produced various HIV tests and antiretroviral drugs. It bought the patents for the polymerase chain reaction technique in 1992. It manufactures and sells several cancer drugs.

In 1976, an accident at a chemical factory in Seveso, Italy owned by a subsidiary of Roche caused a large dioxin contamination; see Seveso disaster.

In 1982, the United States arm of the company acquired Biomedical Reference Laboratories for US$163.5 million. That company dated from the late 1960s, and was located in Burlington, North Carolina. That year Hoffmann–La Roche then merged it with all of its laboratories, and incorporated the merged company as Roche Biomedical Laboratories, Inc. in Burlington. By the early 1990s, Roche Biomedical became one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the United States, with 20 major laboratories and US$600 million in sales.[4]

On April 28, 1995 Hoffmann–La Roche sold Roche Biomedical Laboratories, Inc. to National Health Laboratories Holdings Inc. (which then changed its name to Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings).[5] In 1994, Roche acquired Syntex.

On 12 March 2009 Roche agreed to fully acquire Genentech, in which it had held a majority stake since 1990,[6] after 8 months of negotiations. As a result of the Genentech acquisition, Roche plans to close its Palo Alto based research facilities to move research to South San Francisco and Nutley campuses[7] Genentech became a wholly-owned subsidiary group of Roche on 25 March 2009.[8]

[edit]Creation of the first anti-depressant

In 1956, Iproniazid was accidentally created during an experiment while synthesizing Isoniazid. Originally, it had been intended to create a more efficient drug at combatting Tuberculosis. Iproniazid, however, revealed to have its own benefits; some people felt it made them feel happier. It was withdrawn from the market in the early 1960s due to toxic side-effects.

[edit]Vitamin price fixing

Stanley Adams, Roche’s World Product Manager in Basel, contacted the European Economic Community in 1973 with evidence that Roche had been breaking antitrust laws, engaging in price fixing and market sharing for vitamins with its competitors. Roche was fined accordingly, but a bungle on the part of the EEC allowed the company to discover that it was Adams who had blown the whistle. He was arrested for unauthorised disclosure — an offence under Swiss law — and imprisoned. His wife, having learnt that he might face decades in jail, committed suicide.[9] Adams was released soon after but arrested again more than once before eventually fleeing to Britain, where he wrote a book about the affair, Roche Versus Adams (London, 1984, ISBN 022402180X).

In 1999 Roche was the worldwide market leader in vitamins, with a market share of 40%. Between 1990 and 1999, the company continued to participate in an illegal price fixing cartel for vitamins, which also included BASF and Rhone-Poulenc SA. In 1999, Roche pleaded guilty in the United States and paid a US$500 million fine, then the largest fine ever secured in the U.S.[10] The European Commission fined Roche €462 million for the same infraction in 2001, also a record fine at the time.[9]

Roche sold its vitamin business in late 2002 to the Dutch group DSM.


Drugs produced by Roche include Xenical, Valium, Roaccutane, Zenapax, Valcyte, Bactrim, Tarceva, CellCept, Bonviva, Xeloda and Tamiflu.

Blood glucose monitoring products produced by Roche under the Accu-Chek brand include Accu-Chek Mobile, Accu-Chek Aviva, Accu-Chek Compact Plus

[edit]Oseltamivir Controversy

In a recent meeting of regional health ministers, Dr. Francisco J. Duque III, Secretary of the Philippines Department of Health, accused Roche of “monopolizing” the production and distribution of the drug known as Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu). Oseltamivir is considered to be the primary antiviral drug used to combat avian influenza, commonly known as the bird flu. Roche is the only drug company authorized to manufacture the drug, which was discovered by Gilead Sciences. Roche purchased the rights to the drug in 1996 and in 2005 settled a royalty dispute, agreeing to pay Gilead tiered royalties of 14-22% of annual net sales.[11]

The Philippine health secretary complained that the supply of the said drug is only concentrated in First World countries even if the disease is ravaging bird and poultry populations in Southeast Asia as of this time. Dr. Duque proposed that even if Roche is the only one who has the patent for the drug, special patents or licenses should be granted to other drug companies to manufacture the drug and make it more accessible to avian flu-vulnerable countries in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines. Duque and Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have already communicated with the representative of the World Health Organization in the Philippines asking for assistance in calling for greater production and distribution of Oseltamivir.[citation needed]

Wikinews has related news:Taiwan to violate Tamiflu patent in order to compensate for vaccine shortage

World leaders, such as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, have expressed a desire to have more generic versions of Tamiflu made, especially for Third World countries too poor to buy the brand name drug.[citation needed]

On 20 October 2005, Hoffmann–La Roche decided to license other companies to manufacture Oseltamivir.[12]

[edit]Collaborative research

In addition to internal research and development activities F. Hoffmann–La Roche is also involved in publicly funded collaborative research projects, with other industrial and academic partners. One example in the area of non-clinical safety assessment is the InnoMed PredTox.[13][14] The company is expanding its activities in joint research projects within the framework of the Innovative Medicines Initiative ofEFPIA and the European Commission.[15]

[edit]Additional key persons

In addition to corporate executive committee members mentioned in the summary information box

  • Chief Financial Officer Dr Erich Hunziker (1953)
  • General Counsel and Head of Corporate Services Dr Gottlieb Keller (1954)

Enlarged Corporate Executive Committee

  • Head Global Pharma Development Jean Jacques Garaud
  • Head of Human Resources Silvia Ayyoubi (1953)
  • Head Pharma Partnering Dan Zabrowski
  • Head of Pharma Research Lee Babbiss
  • Head of Roche Diagnostics’ business area Diabetes Care Burkhard G. Piper (1961)
  • Head Global Corporate Communications Per-Olof Attinger (1960)
  • Head of Commercial Operations Pharma Pascal Soriot (1959)
  • President and CEO, Chugai Osamu Nagayama (1947)

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