Before the 1996 merger with Ciba-Geigy to form Novartis, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals (Sandoz AG) was a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Basel, Switzerland (as was Ciba-Geigy), and was best known for developing drugs such as Sandimmune for organ transplantation, the antipsychotic Clozaril, Mellaril Tablets and Serentil Tablets for treating psychiatric disorders, and Cafergot Tablets and Torecan Suppositories for treating migraine headaches.
The Chemiefirma Kern und Sandoz ("Kern and Sandoz Chemistry Firm") was founded in 1886 by Alfred Kern (1850–1893) and Edouard Sandoz (1853–1928). The first dyes manufactured by them were alizarinblue and auramine. After Kern's death, the partnership became the corporation Chemische Fabrik vormals Sandoz in 1895. The company began producing the fever-reducing drug antipyrin in the same year. In 1899, the company began producing the sugar substitute, saccharin. Further pharmaceutical research began in 1917 under Arthur Stoll (1887–1971), who is the founder of Sandoz's pharmaceutical department in 1917. In 1918, Arthur Stoll isolated ergotamine from ergot; the substance was eventually used to treat migraine and headaches and was introduced under the trade name Gynergen in 1921.
Between the World Wars, Gynergen (1921) and Calcium-Sandoz (1929) were brought to market. Sandoz also produced chemicals for textiles, paper, and leather, beginning in 1929. In 1939, the company began producing agricultural chemicals.
The psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) were discovered at the Sandoz laboratories in 1943 by Arthur Stoll and Albert Hofmann. Sandoz began clinical trials and marketed the substance, from 1947 through the mid-1960s, under the name Delysid as a psychiatric drug, thought useful for treating a wide variety of mental ailments, ranging from alcoholism to sexual deviancy. Sandoz suggested in its marketing literature that psychiatrists take LSD themselves, to gain a better subjective understanding of the schizophrenic experience, and many did exactly that and so did other scientific researchers. The Sandoz product received mass publicity as early as 1954, in a Time Magazine feature. Research on LSD peaked in the 1950s and early 1960s. Sandoz withdrew the drug from the market in the mid-1960s. The drug became a cultural novelty of the 1960s after psychologist Timothy Leary at Harvard University began to promulgate its use for recreational and spiritual experiences among the general public.
Sandoz opened its first foreign offices in 1964.
In 1967, Sandoz merged with Wander AG (known for Ovomaltine and Isostar). Sandoz acquired the companies Delmark, Wasabröd (a Swedish manufacturer of crisp bread), and Gerber Products Company (a baby food company).
On 1 November 1986, a fire broke out in a production plant storage room, which led to Sandoz chemical spill and a large amount of pesticide being released into the upper Rhine river. This exposure killed many fish and other aquatic life.
In 1995, Sandoz spun off its specialty chemicals business to form Clariant. Subsequently, in 1997, Clariant merged with the specialty chemicals business that was spun off from Hoechst AG in Germany.
In 1996 Sandoz merged with Ciba-Geigy, with the pharmaceutical and agrochemical divisions of both staying together to form Novartis.