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Hoffmann–La Roche

F. Hoffmann–La Roche, Ltd.
Public (parent company Roche Holding AG traded under RHHBY.PK)
Headquarters Basel, Switzerland, Roche US in Nutley, NJ
Key peopleFranz B. Humer (CEO)
William M. Burns (CEO of pharmaceuticals division)
Severin Schwan (CEO of diagnostics division)
Jonathan Knowles (Director of Research)
ProductsXenical, Valium, Zenapax, Valcyte, Bactrim
Revenue28.6 billion (2005)
Employees74'372 (2006)

F. Hoffmann–La Roche, Ltd. is a Swiss global health-care company which operates world-wide under two divisions: Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. It belongs to the Roche Holding AG.

The headquarters are in Basel and the company has many sites around the world - including: Nutley, Palo Alto, Pleasanton, Branchburg, Indianapolis, Florence in the US, Welwyn Garden City in the UK, Mannheim, Penzberg in Germany, and Shanghai in China.

The company also owns a majority of the American biotechnology company Genentech and the Japanese biotechnology company Chugai Pharmaceuticals.

Roche Holding AG (ticker ROC.S) is listed on the London-based virt-x stock exchange (virt-x is a company of the SWX Swiss Exchange). Roche's revenues during fiscal year 2005 were $28.6 billion (2005, 35.5bn CHF). Descendants of the founding Hoffmann and Oeri families own half of the company. Swiss pharma company Novartis owns 33% of the company (as of 2005).



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 of tranquilizers known as benzodiazepines (with Valium and Rohypnol being the best known members). Its acne drug isotretinoin, marketed as Accutane and Roaccutane, is a market leader[citation needed] in treating severe acne. It 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.[1]

On April 28, 1995 Hoffmann-La Roche sold Roche Biomedical Laboratories, Inc. to National Health Laboratories Holdings Inc. (formerly NYSE: NH), which then changed its name to Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (NYSE: LH).[2] In 1994, Roche acquired Syntex.

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.

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 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. 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 participated 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. The European Commission fined Roche €462 million for the same infraction in 2001, also a record fine at the time.

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

Alleged Tamiflu monopoly

In a recent meeting of regional health ministers, Dr. Francisco 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.[3]

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.[citations needed]

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.[citations needed]

On October 20, 2005, Hoffmann-La Roche decided to license other companies to manufacture Oseltamivir.[citations needed]

Additional key persons

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

Chief Financial Officer Dr Erich Hunziker (1953)

Corporate Services and Human Resources Dr Gottlieb Keller (1954)

Enlarged Corporate Executive Committee

Head Global Pharma Development Eduard E. Holdener (1945)

Head Pharma Partnering Peter Hug (1958)

Head of Roche Diagnostics' business area Diabetes Care Burkhard G. Piper (1961)

Head Global Corporate Communications Rolf D. Schläpfer (1956)

Head of Commercial Operations Pharma Pascal Soriot (1959)

President and CEO, Chugai Osamu Nagayama (1947)

Company profiles

  • Roche Group (Yahoo!)
  • Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. (Yahoo!)


  1. ^ Roche Biomedical Laboratories, Inc.,
  2. ^ Laboratory Corp of America Holdings · 10-Q · For 3/31/95,, Filed On 5/15/95, SEC File 1-11353, Accession Number 920148-95-11
  3. ^ "Roche, Gilead End Tamiflu Feud", Red Herring, November 16, 2005. 
  • Hans Conrad Peyer (1996) Roche - A Company History 1896-1996 Basel: Editiones Roche ISBN 3 907770 59 5
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Hoffmann–La_Roche". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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