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20 years on

Novartis: The making of a pharma giant

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One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Swiss-based Novartis, is in robust health at the age of 20. But it went through a painful birth on March 7, 1996. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

The company formed when Ciba Geigy and Sandoz merged and analysts say it’s a big success. The merger cost around 10,000 jobs but in the long-run more were created.

The current CEO concedes that the merger also meant the loss of the Ciba corporate identity.

Novartis’ profits shrank by a third in 2015, partly because of the strong dollar. Even so, the company still managed to make net gains of CHF7 billion ($7 billion).

The pharma giant is not a stranger to controversy. When chairman Daniel Vasella said he was quitting in 2013, he came under fire for the huge pay-out he was offered to stop him working for competitors. It resulted in the settlement being ditched.

Novartis has been accused of charging too much for its products. In 2013, British health authorities said they would not recommend Jakavi, a drug for treating a rare form of blood cancer, as it was too expensive.