Merck Company History Timeline

(6,210 Jobs)

And in 1891, the company’s United States branch Merck & Co. opened.

Weicker (who would go on to own drug powerhouse Bristol-Myers Squibb) was joined by George Merck, the 24-year-old grandson of Heinrich Emmanuel Merck in 1891.


Merck & Co. sold the first commercially used smallpox vaccine in the United States in 1898.


The year 1899 also marked the first year the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy was published.


The company established a manufacturing facility in Rahway, New Jersey in 1902.

H.K. Mulford Company was an “animal farm” producer of smallpox vaccines and the 1902 Mulford smallpox vaccine was found to be based on horsepox.


The manufacture of drugs and chemicals at this site began in 1903.


Company head George W. Merck purchased back the stock in 1919, but United States Merck remained a separate company from its former German parent.


The first major event of the younger Merck's tenure--which would last 25 years--was the 1927 merger with Philadelphia-based Powers-Weightman-Rosengarten, a pharmaceutical firm best known for antimalarial quinine.


In 1933, he established a large laboratory and recruited prominent chemists and biologists to produce new pharmaceutical products.


Merck agreed to merge with Philadelphia pharmacy Sharp & Dohme in 1953.

A solution was found in 1953 when Merck merged with Sharp & Dohme, Incorporated, a drug company with a similar history and reputation.

In 1953, Merck & Co. merged with Philadelphia-based Sharp & Dohme, Inc., becoming the largest US drugmaker.


Partners since 1954 under a joint business venture called Nippon Merck-Banyu (NMB), the companies used Japanese detail men (or pharmaceutical sales representatives) to promote Merck products.


At the time of George W. Merck's death in 1957, company sales had surpassed $100 million annually.


In 1963, Merck manufactured the first measles vaccine.


Henry W. Gadsen became CEO in 1965 and, as was fashionable at the time, initiated a program of diversification.


After solidifying its place in the pharmaceutical industry, Merck shifted focus to vaccines. It made the first mumps vaccine in 1967.


The company was incorporated in New Jersey in 1970.


In 1975, the company's name was added to a growing list of United States companies involved in illegal payments abroad.


In 1979, for example, Merck began to market Enalapril, a high-blood-pressure inhibitor, similar to the drug Capoten, which was manufactured by Squibb.


In 1982 Merck purchased rights to sell products from Swedish firm Astra AB in the United States; a similar arrangement was reached with Shionogi of Japan.


In 1984, Honran claimed Merck had become the largest United States-based manufacturer of drugs in the three largest markets--the United States, Japan, and Europe.


Problems in labor relations surfaced during the spring of 1985 when Merck locked out 730 union employees at the Rahway plant after failing to agree to a new contract.


Sales for Enalapril reached $550 million in 1986.

The following year, Honran resigned as CEO. In 1986, his successor, Doctor P. Roy Vagelos, a biochemist and the company's former head of research, also was awarded the ethical drug industry's gold award.

In fact, Merck was ranked as one of the '100 Best Companies to Work for in America' and one of Working Mother magazine's '100 Best Companies for Working Mothers' since that ranking's 1986 inception.


Mevacor, a cholesterol-lowering drug introduced in 1987, and ivermectin, the world's top-selling animal health product, also contributed to the company's impressive growth.


In 1989 Merck joined with Johnson & Johnson in a venture to develop over-the-counter (OTC) versions of Merck's prescription medications, initially for the United States market, later expanded to Europe and Canada.


In 1992 Merck introduced Zocor, a cholesterol-fighting drug that eventually surpassed $1 billion in annual sales and became the company's top-selling drug and one of the most successful pharmaceuticals in history.

Merck and Connaught Laboratories, Inc. (later part of Aventis S.A.) jointly agreed in 1992 to develop combination vaccines in the United States.

With the help of infamous investment banker Michael Milken, Wygod built Medco into a mass drug distribution system with $2.5 billion in revenues and $138 million in profits by 1992.


In November 1993, Merck & Co. completed a $6 billion purchase of Medco Containment Services Inc.

In 1993 Merck acquired Medco Containment Services Inc. for $6.6 billion.

Vagelos's choice, Richard J. Markham, resigned unexpectedly in mid-1993, just months before the CEO's anticipated retirement.


Named CEO in June 1994 and chairman in November of that year, Gilmartin had helped turn around medical equipment maker Becton Dickinson & Co. as that firm's chairman and CEO.

In September 1994 he set up a 12-member management committee to help him run the company and plot strategies for growth.

In 1994 Merck created a venture with a related company, Pasteur Merieux Connaught (which was also later part of Aventis S.A.), to market combination vaccines in Europe.


Through its joint venture with Johnson & Johnson, Merck also received United States approval in April 1995 for the antacid Pepcid AC, an OTC version of Merck's Pepcid.

In 1995 Merck sold its Kelco specialty chemicals division to Monsanto Company for $1.1 billion, and its other specialty chemicals unit, Calgon Vestal Laboratories, went to Bristol-Myers Squibb Company for $261 million.


The eight drugs accounted for more than $1 billion in sales in 1996, about ten percent of the company's total drug sales.


In July 1997 Merck exited from the agribusiness sector when it sold its crop protection unit to Novartis for $910 million.

Merck also restructured its animal health unit by combining it with that of Rhone-Poulenc S.A. to form Merial, a stand-alone joint venture created in August 1997.

These five drugs generated $5.2 billion in United States sales in 1997.


In July 1998 Merck sold its half-interest in its joint venture with E.I. du Pont to its partner for $2.6 billion.

In July 1998 Merck and Astra agreed to transform the joint venture into a new limited partnership in which Merck would have no management control but would hold a limited partnership interest and receive royalty payments.

In 1998 the company introduced a record five drugs: Singulair for asthma, Maxalt for migraine headaches, Aggrastat for acute coronary syndrome, Propecia for hair loss, and Cosopt for glaucoma.


Making its United States debut in May 1999, Vioxx was part of a new category of pain drugs, dubbed Cox-2 inhibitors.

The FDA approved Vioxx in 1999.

By that time, Merck's partner in Merial was Aventis S.A., which had been formed from the late 1999 merger of Rhone-Poulenc and Hoechst A.G.

One apparent reason for Gilmartin's go-it-alone approach was the company's rapidly growing Merck-Medco unit, which achieved 1999 sales of $15.23 billion.

Merck's worldwide pharmaceutical sales totaled $12.55 billion in 1999, placing the company in the number one position.

The unit had established the world's biggest Internet-based pharmacy,, and formed an alliance with CVS Corporation in 1999 to sell OTC medicines and general health products through this site.

Overall sales in 1999 increased 22 percent, reaching $32.71 billion, while net income increased 12 percent to $5.89 billion.


The new medication was expected to have sales in 2000 of more than $1 billion, a rapid rise to that level.

Another reason for optimism about the future of Merck was its continued R & D commitment, represented in 2000 by a $2.4 billion budget.


How did Vioxx debacle happen?, USA Today (10/2004)


2007 The company agreed to pay $2.3 billion to settle a tax dispute with the Internal Revenue Service.


Associated Press. (2008, February 7). Merck settlement one of largest ever in health fraud.

2008 Merck paid $671 million to settle federal health-care fraud claims.


In November 2009, Merck & Co. announced that it would merge with competitor Schering-Plough in a US$41 billion deal.

The merger was completed on November 4, 2009.

Merck & Co. merged with Schering-Plough in 2009, giving them access to brand name consumer products like Coppertone and Doctor Scholl’s and has since acquired a large number of smaller companies to remain as the second-largest pharmaceutical company in the United States

In 2009, during the Vioxx scandal, Merck was exposed for fraudulent publishing.


Because of the possible side effects, the FDA released a drug safety communication in October 2011.

Merck changed Propecia’s label in 2011 to warn of the possibility of cancer and sexual side effects.

By 2011, over 200 patients had reported cases of pancreatitis as a result of Januvia.


2013 Merck paid $688 million to settle two shareholder lawsuits.


In June 2014 Merck & Co. announced its acquisition of Idenix Pharmaceuticals for approximately $3.85 billion.

In December 2014 Merck & Co. announced they would be spending $8.4 billion to buy Cubist Pharmaceuticals.

The company settled almost all of them for $100 million in 2014.


In July 2015 Merck & Co. and Ablynx expanded their 18 month old immuno-oncology collaboration by four years, generating a potential $4.4 billion in milestone payments for the Abylnx.

FDA. (2015, August 28). FDA drug safety communication: FDA warns that DPP-4 inhibitors for type 2 diabetes may cause severe joint pain.

A judge dismissed Januvia lawsuits in 2015.

As of 2015, Merck Sharp & Dohme remains a subsidiary of the Merck & Co. parent.


In January 2016 Merck & Co. announced two new partnerships; the first with Quartet Medicine and its small molecule pain treatments, the second with Complix investigating intracellular cancer targets, with both collaborations potentially generating up to $595 million and $280 million respectively.

Hiltzik, M. (2016, June 9). Big Pharma bombshell: Judge finds Merck lied in patent trial, overturns $200-million verdict.

2016 Judge Beth Labson found Merck lied to the court and its business partner.

In 2016, the High Court of Justice in the United Kingdom ruled that MSD had breached an agreement with its former parent company and that only Merck of Darmstadt is entitled to use the Merck name in the United Kingdom.


In 2017, it raked in over $40 billion in revenues.

In 2017, it had revenues of $40.1 billion.


In February 2018, Merck announced it would acquire Australian viral cancer drug company, Viralytics for AUD$502 million ($394 million), boosting Merck's own pipeline.

As of May 2018, about 900 Propecia lawsuits remained pending in federal court in New York.


In February 2019, the company announced its acquisition of Immune Design Corp for nearly $300 million ($5.85 in cash per share), gaining access to its immunotherapy programs.

Merck & Co. is America’s second-largest pharmaceutical company and in 2019 made approximately $46.8 billion in revenue.


On 5 February 2020 Merck announced the formation of a new, independent publicly traded company focused on its Women’s Health, trusted Legacy Brands, and Biosimilars businesse.


First Quarter of 2021: Great Strength in Challenging Market Environment

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Kenilworth, NJ
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George Merck,Theodore Weicker
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