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Wyeth Corporation

Have you ever used a cough syrup called Robitussin? Have you ever used a pain reliever called Advil? These products are made by pharmaceutical company named Wyeth Corporation. Headquartered in Madison, New Jersey, the Wyeth Corporation was once known as American Home Corporation. The company makes a wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

Wyeth History

In 1860, two pharmacists opened a drugstore. This happened all across America, but this drugstore was different. John and Frank Wyeth also decided to research medications. During the Civil War, much of the medicine supply was manufactured by these two brilliant brothers.

After the war was over, one of the company employees developed a machine that could make tablets quickly. The assembly line came to the pharmaceutical industry. A few years later, the brothers sold the drugstore to direct their efforts at the mass production of medicine. Soon, the vaccines were added to the list of growing medicines being manufactured by this new company.

Upon the death of Stuart Wyeth in 1929, controlling interest of the company passed to Harvard University. The company established its headquarters at the Whitehall building in downtown Manhattan. While those were bad years for the country, Wyeth Corporation bought a product called Anacin. This went on to become one of the company's most famous and most widely used products for many years to come. A few years later, Harvard sold the company to American Home Products.

During World War II, Wyeth once again supplied the US military with medications for soldiers. It was during this time, the research began on a drug called penicillin. In the year 1943, Wyeth merged with the Canadian company that brought with it the rights to a medication called premarin. This was one of the first products containing estrogen with the intent to help women balance their hormones. The product was one of the most widely prescribed drugs that Wyeth made.

After the war was over, Wyeth went into the veterinary medical supply business. That business model is still an active part of the company today.

In the 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk began clinical trials on a vaccine to prevent polio. While there were a lot of ups and downs in this process, the polio vaccine went on to become the agent to eradicate this dreaded disease in the United States. Today the polio vaccine is given to him than and children to prevent polio. The 50s also brought advances in oral contraceptives, heart medications and antihistamines.

Everyone has heard about the problems with smallpox in the 19th century. What many do not know is that it continued to be a problem in the 20th century as well. The World Health Organization was so concerned about the prevalence around the world of this dreaded disease that they commissioned Wyeth Corporation to develop a smallpox vaccine. The trials went on in the 1960s. Due to this partnership, smallpox does not kill anymore.

During the term of President Ronald Reagan, Wyeth continued to strengthen its number one position in the pharmaceutical industry. Its oral contraceptives proved very popular to women in the United States. Advil was released and became a popular medication to reduce inflammation and relieve arthritis pain. The company also acquired more animal health companies to expand its role in that industry.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for Wyeth

Many victories awaited Wyeth in the 1990s. The estrogen medication Premarin reached the top spot for this type of product. Clinical trials were put in place to cast serotonin reuptake inhibitors to treat depression and anxiety. The company founded the Women's Health Research Institute. They expanded their presence in the animal health industry into Europe and Asia with the purchase of Solvay.

The company also ventured into the weight loss industry. Research had found that the combination of two medications fenfluramine and phentermine, also known as Fen-Phen, caused people to lose weight. The product combination became an instant hit. It helps a lot of people lose weight. There was just one problem--it caused heart valve damage. The Food and Drug Administration pulled fenfluramine off the market. The decade came to a close after the deaths of many people, many failed mergers, and a costly class-action lawsuit.

The new millennium has brought its share of problems to Wyeth Corporation. In 2002, the company divested all of its non-pharmaceutical lines of business in order to focus on medical research. Problems were found in research studies with hormone replacement therapy. Women who used hormone replacement therapy were more likely to have heart problems, and the therapy was discontinued promptly. Consequently, the sales of the company's Premarin medications plummeted sharply. This was just one more added problem in addition to losing its merger bid with Warner-Lambert to Pfizer. Pfizer won the right to merge with Warner-Lambert creating the largest pharmaceutical company in the United States.

Wyeth Corporation has made huge contributions to medical science. While the company is no longer number one, it will continue to play a vital role in the manufacture and research of new medications.