In 1888 at the age of 30, Wallace Abbott (1857–1921), an 1885 graduate of the University of Michigan, founded the Abbott Alkaloidal Companyin Ravenswood, Chicago. At the time, he was a practicing physician and owned a drug store. His innovation was the use of the active part of a medicinal plant, generally an alkaloid (e.g., morphine, quinine, strychnine and codeine), which he formed into tiny “dosimetric granules”. This approach was successful since it produced more consistent and effective dosages for patients. In 1922 he moved the company from Ravenswood to North Chicago, Illinois.
Abbott’s first international affiliate was in London in 1907, and the company later added an affiliate in Montreal, Canada (Fact 21). Abbott started operations in Pakistan as a marketing affiliate in 1948; the company has steadily expanded to comprise a work force of over 1500 employees. Currently two manufacturing facilities located at Landhi and Korangi in Karachi continue to produce pharmaceutical products. Expansion continued in 1962 when Abbott entered into a joint venture with Dainippon Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., of Osaka, Japan, to manufacture radio-pharmaceuticals. In 1964, it merged with Ross Laboratories, making Ross a wholly owned subsidiary of Abbott, and Richard Ross gained a seat on Abbott’s board of directors until his retirement in 1983. In 1965, Abbott’s expansion in Europe continued with offices in Italy and France. Abbott Laboratories has been present in India for over 100 years through its subsidiary Abbott India Limited and it is currently India‘s largest healthcare products company.
According to Harvard professor Lester Grinspoon and Peter Hedblom, “In 1966 Abbott Laboratories sold the equivalent of two million doses of methamphetamine in powder form to a Long Island criminal dealer”.
In 2001, the company acquired Knoll, the pharmaceutical division of BASF. In 2002, it divested the Selsun Blue brand to Chattem. Later in 2002, the company sold Clear Eyes and Murine to Prestige Brands. In 2004, it spun off its hospital products division into a new 14,000 employee company named Hospira, and acquired TheraSense, a diabetes-care company, which it merged with its MediSense division to become Abbott Diabetes Care. In 2006, Abbott assisted Boston Scientific in its purchase of Guidant Corporation. As part of the agreement, Abbott purchased the vascular device division of Guidant. In 2007, Ross was renamed Abbott Nutrition.
In 2007, Abbott acquired Kos Pharmaceuticals for $3.7 billion in cash. At the time of acquisition, Kos marketed Niaspan, which raises levels of “good,” or HDL, cholesterol and Advicor, a Niaspan combination drug for patients with multiple lipid disorders.
In January 2007, the company agreed to sell its in vitro diagnostics and Point-of-Care diagnostics divisions to General Electric for more than $8 billion. These units were slated to be integrated into the GE Healthcare business unit. The transaction was approved by the boards of directors of Abbott and GE and was targeted to close in the first half of 2007. However, on July 11, 2007, Abbott announced that it had terminated its agreement with GE because the parties could not agree on the terms of the deal.
On September 8, 2007, the company completed the sale of the UK manufacturing plant at Queenborough to Aesica Pharmaceuticals, a private equity-owned UK manufacturer. No announcements have been made restricting the movement of staff to Abbott unlike other sell outs. On February 26, 2009, the company completed its acquisition of Advanced Medical Optics based in Santa Ana, California. In 2009, Abbott opened a satellite research and development facility at Research Park, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In February 2010, Abbott completed its $6.2 billion (EUR 4.5 billion) acquisition of the pharmaceuticals unit of Solvay S.A. This provided Abbott with a large and complementary portfolio of pharmaceutical products and also expanding its presence in key emerging markets.
In October 2011, the company announced that it planned to separate into two companies, one research-based pharmaceuticals and the other in medical devices, generic drugs sold internationally, and consumer products, with device company retaining the Abbott name. The company announced that the other company would be named AbbVie in March 2012. In preparation for the reorganization, Abbott made severe budget cuts and took a $478 million charge in Q3-2012 to pay for the restructuring. The separation was effective as of January 1, 2013. AbbVie was officially listed in the New York Stock Exchange on January 2, 2013.
On May 16, 2014, it was announced that Abbott would acquire the holding company Kalo Pharma Internacional S.L. for $2.9 billion in order to secure the 73% it held of Chilean pharmaceutical company, CFR Pharmaceuticals, which the company said would more than double its branded generic drug portfolio.
In June 2014, the company entered into a definitive agreement to take over Russian pharmaceutical manufacturer Veropharm (Voronezh) in a deal worth $631 million. Abbott, which already employs 1,400 people in Russia, said it planned to set up a manufacturing presence in the country when the deal closed.
In February 2016, the company announced it would acquire Alere for $5.8 billion. In late April, of the same year, Abbott announced it would acquire St. Jude Medical for $25 billion (each share receiving $46.75 in cash & 0.8708 shares of Abbott common stock, equating to an approximate value of $85).
In October 3, 2017, the company closed the Alere acquisition making the surviving entity the market leader player in the $7 billion point-of-care diagnostic space within the broader $50 billion in-vitro diagnostics market with this takeover. With the acquisition of Alere, the company also obtain the subsidiary Arriva Medical, which is the largest mail-order diabetic supplier. Arriva Medical announced business closure after Abbott acquisition effective December 31, 2017.