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Bayer is a global pharmaceutical company known for making Aspirin. The company started more than 150 years ago and is now one of the largest corporations in the world. Bayer made about $52 billion in 2021. This is despite lawsuits that blame some of Bayer’s drugs and devices for injuries. The German-based company also has a history of scandal and marketing fraud.

Last Modified: November 21, 2023
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About Bayer

Bayer manufactures well-known over-the-counter medications including aspirin, MiraLAX, Claritin, Alka-Seltzer, Midol and Aleve. Prescription pharmaceuticals, however, make up most of Bayer’s sales. 

Some of the company’s popular pharmaceuticals include Levitra, Nexavar, Avelox, Cipro, Mirena and Xarelto. The company also specializes in chemicals and veterinary products.

Bayer’s Revenues
Bayer projected its revenue to be as much as €49.5 billion, or about $54.1 billion, in 2023.
Source: Bayer

Bayer merged with Monsanto, known for its herbicide Roundup, in 2016. Analysts say the company will likely put a heavier focus on agriculture in the future. 

Headquartered in Germany, the company’s reach extends to America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Bayer employs more than 101,300 people worldwide. More than 23,700 employees work at its 170-plus U.S. facilities.

Bayer CEO Bill Anderson took the place of Werner Baumann in June 2023. 

History of Bayer

Friedrich Bayer and Johann Friedrich Weskott founded Bayer in 1863. The company developed Aspirin in 1899. Around that time, it also became the first company to sell heroin as a cough suppressant.

Bayer began producing explosives and chemical weapons during World War I. The government seized the company’s foreign assets, patents and trademarks. This included aspirin and heroin. From 1925 to 1951, Bayer incorporated into chemical conglomerate IG Farben. Bayer didn’t exist as an individual company.

Bayer, Heroin & Children
Bayer promoted heroin use in children for colds and coughs up until 1912.

After World War II, the Allies dissolved IG Farben into 12 new companies. Bayer re-emerged in 1951 as Farbenfabriken Bayer AG. Bayer remained under control of the Allies from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Bayer’s Nazi Connections

IG Farben was Bayer’s parent company during WWII. The company had extensive ties to the Third Reich according to Auschwitz concentration camp documents.

Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor’s 1999 lawsuit documents suggested Bayer was involved in human experimentation. The lawsuit accused Bayer of paying Nazi officials for access to prisoners to test its drugs on. Kor and her sister, Miriam, were among thousands of twins involved in the company’s experiments. They were 10 years old in 1945, when Allied forces defeated Nazi Germany.

Miriam Kor died in 1993 of complications from the experiments. The lawsuit claimed Bayer provided toxic chemicals used in experiments. Bayer resolved the lawsuit with the Foundation for Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future. The U.S. and German governments negotiated the $5 billion fund.

Bayer's Products

Bayer separates its products into four categories: pharmaceuticals, consumer health, crop sciences and animal health. Its pharmaceuticals division focuses on prescription products. This includes cardiology and women’s health care products.

Its consumer health division makes non-prescription products. These are for dermatology, nutrition, digestive health and cardiovascular prevention. Other areas include allergy, cough and cold, foot care and sun care.

Popular Bayer Products
  • Aspirin/Aleve/Flanax
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Claritin
  • Yaz/Yasmin
  • Mirena/Kyleena
  • Essure
  • Xarelto
  • Avelox/Cipro
  • Eylea
  • MiraLAX
  • Coppertone
  • Levitra
  • Dr. Scholl’s

Bayer also makes specialty therapeutics for use in oncology, hematology and ophthalmology. In the field of radiology, Bayer makes contrast-enhanced diagnostic imaging equipment and the required contrast agents. In agriculture, Bayer is involved in high-value seeds and chemical and biological pest management.

Lawsuits and Settlements Against Bayer

Some of Bayer’s popular drugs and devices have been associated with adverse reactions and complications. Reported side effects have led to personal injury lawsuits.


More than 10,000 women filed Yaz lawsuits against Bayer. The company settled more than 8,000 cases for $1.7 billion. About 60 federal lawsuits remained pending as of May 2018.

Yaz birth control pills
Yaz is a type of hormonal birth control. It contains a combination of drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol.


More than 520 Mirena lawsuits were pending in New York in May 2018. Mirena lawsuits say Bayer failed to warn the device may move in the body.

Mirena Uterine contraceptive devices (IUD).
Mirena is an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD). The IUD is a Levonorgestrel intrauterine system or hormonal contraceptive.


Bayer agreed to settle nearly 39,000 Essure claims for $1.6 billion. Essure lawsuits blame the device for serious injuries and death.

Essure diagram in uterus
Essure is a form of permanent birth control. It's permanently implanted.


Bayer is fighting about 22,000 Xarelto bleeding lawsuits. The lawsuits are in a federal court in Louisiana.

Xarelto anticoagulant (blood thinner) pill
Xarelto is an anticoagulant (blood thinner) that can cause severe bleeding. It contains the drug rivaroxaban.

Avelox and Cipro

Bayer faces more than 780 lawsuits over fluoroquinolones like Cipro and Avelox. Cipro lawsuits and Avelox lawsuits say the antibiotics caused aortic injuries.

Avelox (left) Cipro (right) pills
Avelox (left) and Cipro (right) are fluoroquinolone antibiotics. They can cause aortic injuries.

Bayer Drug Recalls

Bayer recalled some of its products because of incorrect labeling, choking hazards and deaths. In the case of heroin, U.S. Congress banned the sale of it in 1924.

Notable Bayer Recalls
1913HeroinHospitalizations and cases of drug abuse; Congress banned the sale, production and importation of heroin in 1924
2001BaycolDeaths from rhabdomyolysis, a serious muscle condition
2007Trasylol Increased risk of death, kidney damage, congestive heart failure and strokes
2017RestoraLAX (Canadian version of powder laxative MiraLAX)Potential for choking hazard; clumps caused by poorly dissolved product deposits could be hazardous if swallowed
2018Alka-Seltzer Plus - all products with the Bayer logo with an orange or green background sold after Feb. 9, 2018, at Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger storesIncorrect labeling; the ingredients listed on the front sticker may not match the ingredients included on the back of the carton posing a risk to patients with allergies or contraindications

Critics say some recalls didn’t come soon enough. Medical researchers say the lives of 22,000 people could have been saved had the FDA required an earlier recall of Trasylol.

Bayer Scandal

Cutter Biological, a division of Bayer, sold millions of dollars of HIV-tainted blood-clotting medicines to hemophiliacs in the 1980s.

Internal documents alleged the company made its medicine Factor VIII from the blood of prisoners, intravenous drug users and high-risk gay men. The medicine infected thousands in the U.S. and abroad with HIV and hepatitis C. Many died.

Selling Tainted Drugs
Cutter made a heat-treated medication for Americans. But it continued to sell the tainted medication in Argentina and parts of Asia.

Bayer didn’t admit wrongdoing. It set up a $600 million fund with three other companies to settle lawsuits. The lawsuits accused the companies of making a dangerous product.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.