Organon was founded by Dr. Saal van Zwanenberg in Oss, Netherlands, in the early 1920s as a pharmaceutical company. Today, the company manufactures medications in the fields of fertility, gynecology, neuroscience, and anesthesia.
As a Dutch company, Organon began with strong ties to the University of Amsterdam and a professor of pharmacology there, Dr. Ernst Laqueur. As one of the founders, Dr. Laqueur helped to foster collaboration between the university and the pharmaceutical company, the journal Gewina publishes.
Organon has a storied history of acquisitions and sales. Today, it is a subsidiary of Merck (known outside of the US and Canada as MSD & Co.), which is headquartered in Kenilworth, New Jersey. Merck is a $40 billion global healthcare giant that manufactures and distributes vaccines, biologic therapies, prescription medications, and animal health products.
Organon is known for developing and marketing several oral contraceptives (Mercilon, Marvelon, and the mini-pill Cerazette) and the only vaginal-ring contraceptive, NuvaRing. Organon also produces hormone replacement, or hormone stimulating, therapy medications for fertility, including Pregnyl (chorionic gonadotropin), Orgalutran (ganirelix), and Puregon (follitropin beta). Hormone replacement therapy medications may be used to treat symptoms of menopause and include medications like Livial (tibolone) and Ovestin (oestriol). The testosterone replacement anabolic steroid Andriol (testosterone undecanoate) for men who do not produce enough testosterone on their own.
Organon makes medications for anesthesia like Esmeron (rocuronium bromide) and Norcuron (vecuronium). Organon also manufactures the antidepressant medication Remeron (mirtazapine) and Remeron SolTab, which are orally disintegrating tablets.
Organon’s Historical Timeline
A general timeline of some of the most significant points in the history of Organon follows:
- 1923: The company was founded as Zwanenberg-Organon and first produced insulin for the treatment of diabetes.
- 1930s: Organon began producing oestrogens and moved into the field of hormonal contraceptives.
- 1948: The company acquires the Newhouse research site in Scotland, United Kingdom, to be named Koninklijke Zwanenberg-Organon, or KZO.
- 1953: Organon starts producing cortisone, a corticosteroid hormone used to decrease inflammation that is typically injected into soft tissue or joints.
- 1969: KZO merges with AKU, a fibre producer, to become AKZO, which later morphs into Akzo Nobel. Organon becomes the healthcare subsidiary of Akzo Nobel and moves it headquarters to New Jersey.
- 2007: Akzo Nobel sells the Organon Biosciences unit to Schering-Plough, an American pharmaceutical company, for $14.4 billion, The New York Times In doing so, Akzo moves away from pharmaceuticals in order to focus more on their chemical products as Organon had been dragging behind the industry averages. The sale give Schering-Plough access to Organon’s birth control pill Marvelon as well as several experimental drugs, such as sugammadex (Bridion) for general anesthesia and asenapine (Saphris) for schizophrenia treatment (now marketed for acute manic symptoms associated with bipolar I disorder).
- 2009: Shering-Plough, and thus Organon, merge with the German pharmaceutical company MSD & Co., or Merck. Within Merck, Organon handles the development of medications for hormone replacement therapy, contraception, anesthesia, and psychiatry.
- 2013: Merck sells off a legacy Organon site in Oss, Netherlands, to Aspen Pharmacare, triggering fears of job cuts for Organon’s research and development (R&D) and manufacturing employees, the journal FiercePharma
- 2014: Merck and Organon face a lawsuit for Medicare fraud involving the antidepressant drug Remeron (mirtazapine).
In 2014, Organon USA, Inc. was ordered to pay $31 million in claims after lawsuits alleged that the company defrauded state Medicare programs when they marketed the antidepressant drug Remeron to nursing home pharmacies, Reuters publishes. Claims stated that Organon offered these pharmacies a discounted price for Remeron and then billed Medicare for the full price, potentially as part of an illegal kickback plot that gave the company a competitive edge over other pharmaceutical companies that were marketing similar products at a higher price. Organon was also accused of promoting Remeron for off-label use to treat children and adolescents, although this was not proven.
Remeron is an atypical and tetracyclic antidepressant that is believed to boost the presence of serotonin and noradrenergic activity to enhance and stabilize moods. Conversely, it may also increase suicidal thoughts and actions, particularly in young adults, adolescents, and children.
When used long-term, it may lead to significant withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. The medication guide published by Merck warns that suddenly stopping Remeron can cause dizziness, headache, sweating, agitation, sleep issues, shaking, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, confusion, and tingling sensations. Remeron may then cause physical and emotional dependence if the drug is used long-term or if it is misused and used without a necessary and legitimate prescription. It is, however, generally considered safer and associated with fewer side effects than many other antidepressant medications.
Remeron and Addiction
Antidepressant drugs can increase pleasure and reduce anxiety; therefore, they may be abused recreationally. They may also be used after a prescription has run out, in excess of a necessary prescription, or used after the drug is no longer medically needed. The negative side effects of stopping Remeron can make a person want to keep taking the drug even if it isn’t needed. Individuals may lose their ability to control their dosage of the drug and take it more often and in higher amounts than intended. People may doctor shop, or seek prescriptions from multiple doctors; exaggerate mental health symptoms; ask for or take prescription medications from friends or family members; buy the medications illegally; or steal the drugs in order to keep them on hand.
Remeron is generally considered to have a fairly low abuse and addictive potential, however, and it is even used on an off-label basis to treat addiction sometimes. When used as directed by a medical professional, Remeron may help to reduce drug cravings, enhance abstinence, and improve moods during addiction treatment for opioids, alcohol, methamphetamines, and cocaine, among other substances of abuse. Studies on current methamphetamine users published by the journal Archives of General Psychiatry showed that mirtazapine reduced cravings and use of methamphetamine in individuals who were receiving concurrent counseling for substance abuse.
While Remeron is used in conjunction with therapeutic methods and may have benefits in such a capacity, it is not currently FDA-approved for use in treating addictive disorders.