Boehringer Ingelheim is a German-based company that researches, develops and manufactures a wide range of pharmaceutical and medical products for humans and animals. In 2014, Boehringer Ingelheim recorded sales of more than $15 billion.
Boehringer Ingelheim was founded in 1885 by Albert Boehringer. The company originated in a tartar factory that employed fewer than 30 people and supplied acid salts for pharmacies and dyeing works. In 1893, Boehringer discovered that lactic acid – widely used in the dying, food and leather industries – could be mass produced by harnessing bacteria. This groundbreaking discovery led to rapid growth, and by the time Boehringer died in 1939, his company employed more than 1,500 people.
Already a pioneer in the arena of biotech manufacturing, Boehringer Ingelheim launched a number of successful pharmaceutical products starting in the 1940s. In the 1970s and 1980s, the company founded research institutes and production sites that led to new proprietary products and continued to fuel its growth. Today, its research centers span four continents.
In 1991, Boehringer Ingelheim established a Board of Managing Directors composed of non-family members and refocused the company’s resources on research and innovation. Today, it boasts 47,000 employees and is one of most successful foreign companies in the U.S. and Japan. Boehringer Ingelheim now focuses mainly on the therapeutic areas of cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, diseases of the central nervous system, metabolic diseases, virological diseases and oncology.
The anticoagulant Pradaxa has been one of Boehringer Ingelheim’s most successful products. However, it has also been one of its most controversial. Pradaxa was approved in 2010 as an alternative to warfarin, the standard blood-thinning medication that’s been in use for more than 50 years. However, there was no antidote to reverse internal bleeding that sometimes occurs among patients treated with Pradaxa. Bleeding is also a risk with warfarin, but it can be stopped via the administration of vitamin K.
In 2011, Pradaxa was cited 3,781 reports of serious adverse events reported to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, including 542 fatal events. Soon, thousands of people had filed Pradaxa lawsuits over episodes of uncontrollable bleeding and other side effects allegedly related to its use. In 2014, Boehringer Ingelheim agreed to settle those lawsuits for $650 million.
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