Roussel Uclaf

Roussel Uclaf S.A. was a French pharmaceutical company and one of several predecessor companies of today's Sanofi.

Roussel-Uclaf S.A.
Public (Société anonyme)
SuccessorHoechst AG (Hoechst Marion Roussel)
FoundedParis, France (1911 (1911))
Institut de Sérothérapie Hémopoïétique
ISH (1920)

Usines Chimiques des Laboratoires Français
UCLAF (1928)

Société Française de la Pénicilline

(Roussel-Uclaf, S.A. incorporated 1961)
FounderGaston Roussel
DefunctSeptember 30, 1997 (September 30, 1997)[1]
HeadquartersParis, France (1911–1995)
Romainville, France (1995–1997)[2]
Area served
Key people
Gaston Roussel (CEO, 1911–1947)
Jean-Claude Roussel (CEO, 1961–1972)
Jacques Machizaud (CEO, 1974–1981)
Édouard Sakiz (CEO, 1981–1993)
Ernst-Günter Afting (CEO, 1994–1995)
Jean-Pierre Godard (CEO, 1995–1997)
ProductsHemostyl (erythropoietin, horse serum)
Rubiazol (carboxysulfamidochrysoidine)
Rythmodan (disopyramide)
Decis (deltamethrin)
Surgam (tiaprofenic acid)
Claforan (cefotaxime sodium)
Mifegyne (mifepristone, RU-486)
Anandron (nilutamide)
Revenue US$ 3.01 billion (1996)[3]
US$ 340 million(1996)[3]
Number of employees
15,673 worldwide (1992)[4]
  8,409 in France (1992)[4]
  6,533 in France (1996)[5]

It was the second largest French pharmaceutical company[6] before it was acquired by Hoechst AG of Frankfurt, Germany in 1997, with pharmaceutical operations combined into the Hoechst Marion Roussel (HMR) division in the United States. Roussel Uclaf's agrochemical operations had been transferred to Hoechst Schering AgrEvo GmbH in 1994.

HMR subsequently merged in 1999 with Rhône-Poulenc to form Aventis, which then merged in 2004 with Sanofi-Synthélabo to form Sanofi-Aventis, which was since renamed Sanofi. Hoechst Schering AgrEvo merged in 1999 with Rhône-Poulenc's agrochemical division to form Aventis CropScience, which was acquired by Bayer AG in 2002 and combined with Bayer's agrochemical division to form Bayer CropScience.


In April 1980, as part of a formal research project at Roussel-Uclaf for the development of glucocorticoid receptor antagonists, chemist Georges Teutsch synthesized mifepristone (RU-38486, the 38,486th compound synthesized by Roussel-Uclaf from 1949 to 1980; shortened to RU-486); which was discovered to also be a progesterone receptor antagonist.[7][8] In October 1981, endocrinologist Étienne-Émile Baulieu, a consultant to Roussel-Uclaf, arranged tests of its use for medical abortion in eleven women in Switzerland by gynecologist Walter Herrmann at the University of Geneva's Cantonal Hospital, with successful results announced on April 19, 1982.[7][9] On October 9, 1987, following worldwide clinical trials in 20,000 women of mifepristone with a prostaglandin analogue (initially sulprostone or gemeprost, later misoprostol) for medical abortion, Roussel-Uclaf sought approval in France for their use for medical abortion, with approval announced on September 23, 1988.[7][10]

On October 21, 1988, in response to antiabortion protests and concerns of majority (54.5%) owner Hoechst AG of Germany, Roussel-Uclaf’s executives and board of directors voted 16 to 4 to stop distribution of mifepristone, which they announced on October 26, 1988.[7][11] Two days later, the French government ordered Roussel-Uclaf to distribute mifepristone in the interests of public health.[7][12] French Health Minister Claude Évin explained that: "I could not permit the abortion debate to deprive women of a product that represents medical progress. From the moment Government approval for the drug was granted, RU-486 became the moral property of women, not just the property of a drug company."[7] Following use by 34,000 women in France from April 1988 to February 1990 of mifepristone distributed free of charge, Roussel-Uclaf began selling Mifegyne (mifepristone) to hospitals in France in February 1990 at a price (negotiated with the French government) of $48 per 600 mg dose.[7]

Mifegyne was subsequently approved in Great Britain on July 1, 1991,[13] and in Sweden in September 1992,[14] but until his retirement in late April 1994, Hoechst AG chairman Wolfgang Hilger, a devout Roman Catholic, blocked any further expansion in availability.[7][15] On May 16, 1994, Roussel-Uclaf announced that it was donating without remuneration all rights for medical uses of mifepristone in the U.S. to the Population Council,[16] which subsequently licensed mifepristone to Danco Laboratories, a new single-product company immune to antiabortion boycotts, which won FDA approval as Mifeprex on September 28, 2000.[17]

On April 8, 1997, after buying the remaining 43.5% of Roussel-Uclaf stock in early 1997,[18] Hoechst AG ($30 billion annual revenue) announced the end of its manufacture and sale of Mifegyne ($3.44 million annual revenue) and the transfer of all rights for medical uses of mifepristone outside of the U.S. to Exelgyn S.A., a new single-product company immune to antiabortion boycotts, whose CEO was former Roussel-Uclaf CEO Édouard Sakiz.[19] In 1999, Exelgyn won approval of Mifegyne in 11 additional countries, and in 28 more countries over the following decade.[20]


  1. Flallo, Laurent (October 2, 1997). "Hoechst Marion Roussel France touché par une des taxes Aubry". Les Échos. p. 8. Hoechst Marion Roussel France - ex-Roussel Uclaf, which juridically disappeared yesterday...
  2. Aizicovici, Francine (March 7, 1994). "Le désarroi des salariés". Le Monde. headquarters moved to Romainville in April 1995 after 40 years at 35 Boulevard des Invalides, Paris.
  3. . (February 18, 1997). "Roussel UCLAF : profits en hausse de 11%". l'Humanité.
    . (February 18, 1997). "Hoechst AG: Roussel Uclaf unit posts net profit increase of 90%". The Wall Street Journal. p. A6. 1996: $3.01 billion sales, $339.5 million net profit
  4. . (May 5, 1993). "Country focus: French chemicals: an industry review". Chemical Week. p. S14.
    Roussel Uclaf
    Sales 1992: F14.8 billion (3.5%). Profit before tax 1992: F1.439 billion (43%). Investment in assets 1992: F930 million (11.8%). Acquisitions in 1992: F452 million. Employees: 15,673; 8,409 of whom are in France. Principal products: Pharmaceuticals (57% of sales), agroveterinary products (23%), bulk pharmaceuticals (13%) and OTC and cosmetics (4%). Roussel Uclaf is owned 65% by Hoechst and 35% by Rhone-Poulenc, which might soon sell its stake to Hoechst. Headquarters: Paris.
  5. Lemaître, Frédéric (December 3, 1996). "Roussel-Uclaf adopte les 35 heures de travail hebdomadaires sans perte de salaire". Le Monde. 6,533 employees in France
  6. . (October 14, 1997). "Roussel Uclaf disappears, giving way to Hoechst Marion Russell". Chemical Business NewsBase. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. 2nd largest pharmaceutical company (after Rhône-Poulenc and ahead of Sanofi)
  7. Baulieu, Étienne-Émile; Rosenblum, Mort (1991). The "abortion pill" : RU-486, a woman's choice. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-73816-X.
    Lader, Lawrence (1991). RU 486 : the pill that could end the abortion wars and why American women don't have it. Reading: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-57069-6.
    Villaran, Gilda (1998). "RU 486". In Schlegelmilch, Bodo B. (ed.). Marketing ethics : an international perspective. London: Thomson Learning. pp. 155–190. ISBN 1-86152-191-X.
    Ulmann, André (2000). "The development of mifepristone: a pharmaceutical drama in three acts". J Am Med Womens Assoc. 55 (3 Suppl): 117–20. PMID 10846319.
  8. Teutsch, Georges (November 24, 1989). "RU 486 development". Science. 246 (4933): 985. doi:10.1126/science.2587990. PMID 2587990.
    Cherfas, Jeremy (November 24, 1989). "Dispute surfaces over paternity of RU 486". Science. 246 (4933): 994. doi:10.1126/science.2587988. PMID 2587988.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
    Philibert, Daniel; Teutsch, Georges (February 9, 1990). "RU 486 development". Science. 247 (4943): 622. doi:10.1126/science.2300819. PMID 2300819.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
    Ullman, André; Teutsch, Georges; Philibert, Daniel (June 1990). "RU 486". Sci Am. 262 (6): 42–8. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0690-42. PMID 2343294.
    Teutsch, G.; Deraedt, R.; Philibert, D. (1993). "Mifepristone". In Lednicer, Daniel (ed.). Chronicles of drug discovery, Vol. 3. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society. pp. 1–43. ISBN 0-8412-2523-0.
    Philibert, Daniel; Teutsch, Georges (June 1994). "History and perspectives of antiprogestins from the chemist's point of view". Human Reproduction. 9 (Suppl 1): 12–31. doi:10.1093/humrep/9.suppl_1.12. PMID 7962457.
    . (2007). "Mifepristone". In Sittig, Marshall (ed.). Pharmaceutical manufacturing encyclopedia (3rd ed.). Norwich, NY: William Andrew Publishing. pp. 2307–2310. ISBN 1-60119-339-4.
    US patent 4,386,085, Teutsch, Jean G.; Costerousse, Germain; Philibert, Daniel; Deraedt, Roger, "Novel steroids", issued 1983-05-31 assigned to Roussel Uclaf
  9. Eder, Richard (April 20, 1982). "Birth control: 4-day pill is promising in early test". The New York Times. p. C1.
    Herrmann, Walter; Wyss, Rolf; Riondel, Anne; Philibert, Daniel; Teutsch, Georges; Sakiz, Edouard; Baulieu, Étienne-Émile (May 17, 1982). "The effects of an antiprogesterone steroid in women: interruption of the menstrual cycle and of early pregnancy". Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, Série III. 294 (18): 933–8. PMID 6814714.
  10. Kolata, Gina (September 24, 1988). "France and China allow sale of a drug for early abortion". The New York Times. p. A1.
  11. Greenhouse, Steven (October 27, 1988). "Drug maker stops all distribution of abortion pill". The New York Times. p. A1.
  12. Greenhouse, Steven (October 29, 1988). "France ordering company to sell its abortion drug". The New York Times. p. A1.
  13. Smith, W. (September 1991). "Great Britain second country to allow use of RU-486". Plan Parent Eur. 20 (2): 20. PMID 12284548.
  14. . (December 1992). "RU 486 licensed in Sweden". IPPF Med Bull. 26 (6): 6. PMID 12346922.
  15. Newman, Barry (February 22, 1993). "Drug dilemma: among those wary of abortion pill is maker's parent firm; Germany's Hoechst is facing pressure from Clinton to sell RU-486 in U.S.". The Wall Street Journal. p. A1.
    Associated Press (April 16, 1993). "F.D.A. says company delays abortion pill". The New York Times. p. A14.
    Jouzaitis, Carol (October 17, 1994). "Abortion pill battle surprises French firm". Chicago Tribune. p. 1 (Business).
  16. Seelye, Katharine Q. (May 17, 1994). "Accord opens way for abortion pill in U.S. in 2 years". The New York Times. p. A1.
  17. Kolata, Gina (September 29, 2000). "U.S. approves abortion pill; drug offers more privacy and could reshape debate". The New York Times. p. A1.
  18. Moore, Stephen D.; Kamm, Thomas; Fleming, Charles (December 11, 1996). "Hoechst to seek rest of Roussel-Uclaf; expected $3.04 billion offer would add to the wave of drug-sector linkups". The Wall Street Journal. p. A3.
    Marshall, Matt (December 11, 1996). "Hoechst offers to pay $3.6 billion for rest of Roussel". The Wall Street Journal. p. A8.
    Bloomberg Business News (December 11, 1996). "Hoechst to buy rest of Roussel". The New York Times. p. D4.
  19. Bloomberg News (April 9, 1997). "Pill for abortion ends production". The New York Times. p. D2.
    Jouzaitis, Carol (April 9, 1997). "Abortion pill maker bows to boycott heat; German firm gives up RU-486 patent; little impact likely in U.S." Chicago Tribune. p. 4.
    Lavin, Douglas (April 9, 1997). "Hoechst will stop making abortion pill". The Wall Street Journal. p. A3.
    . (April 18, 1997). "Roussel-Uclaf to transfer RU 486 rights". Reprod Freedom News. 6 (7): 8. PMID 12292550.
    Dorozynski, Alexander (April 19, 1997). "Boycott threat forces French company to abandon RU486". BMJ. 314 (7088): 1150. doi:10.1136/bmj.314.7088.1145m. PMC 2126515. PMID 9146386.
  20. . (November 4, 2009). "List of mifepristone approval" (PDF). New York: Gynuity Health Projects.
    . (November 4, 2009). "Map of mifepristone approval" (PDF). New York: Gynuity Health Projects.


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