One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, along with Pfizer, Roche, Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline, and a few others, each with annual cash flow similar to that of respectably sized countries. Mysteriously, a vast portion of this income is then dispersed in the form of drug company pens strewn around the offices, cars and homes of medical professionals around the world. In my experience, Novartis makes the best pens, while Amgen provides excellent umbrellas, and Roche's thermos flasks are extremely hardy and practical. Why they bother making drugs instead of saving all that research and development money and just selling this stuff confuses many.

The smallest in the pack will be swallowed without trace periodically, and the survivors merge, amoeba-like in the case of GlaxoWellcome and SmithKline Beecham, on a monthly basis, to create yet more vast and wealthy complexes and stay away from the bottom of the food chain. All this makes it a little tricky to remember who's who sometimes. Novartis recently ate little Ciba-Geigy, who was involved in the production of some seriously cool new oncology drugs.

They can be found at, or littering the offices of doctors near you.

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