What is Von Hippel-Lindau disease?

Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL disease) is a rare genetic disorder in which multiple tumors and cysts can grow in various parts of the body.


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Picture: the human body and the places where VHL can cause tumors and cysts

Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) is caused by a genetic defect that leads to the development of various, mostly benign tumors (accumulations of tissue) and cysts (fluid-filled cavities in tissue). They can often occur in the brain and spinal cord, in the retina, in the kidneys, in the pancreas, in the inner ear, but also in other parts of the body.

If left untreated, the disease can be life-threatening.

VHL disease is rare

VHL disease occurs in about one out of 36,000 people. Around 200,000 cases are known worldwide. The precise time at which the first signs of the disease appear and how severe the course of the disease is can vary greatly.

At the time of diagnosis, those affected are on average 26 years old. In around 97% of people with a VHL gene mutation, symptoms appear by the age of 65. Men and women are equally affected.

Cause of the disease

The cause of Von Hippel-Lindau disease is a defect in the so-called VHL gene.

In healthy people, the VHL gene produces a protein that prevents the development of tumors. In people with Von Hippel-Lindau disease, this gene does not function as it should. It cannot produce enough protein to prevent tumor formation.

In most cases, VHL disease is inherited

Von Hippel-Lindau disease is inherited in a manner known as “autosomal dominant”.

  • This means that if one parent has a defect in the VHL gene, each of his/her children has a 50% chance of inheriting this gene and developing the disease.

  • Approximately 80% of affected people have a parent with VHL disease.

  • In around 20% of those affected, VHL disease occurs without either parent being affected.

Clinical presentation

VHL disease is also known as “multisystem disease”. This is because several tumors and cysts typically grow in various organs.

Most VHL tumors are benign. However, as they grow larger, they can cause discomfort and pain and, if left untreated, they can significantly impair quality of life.

Possible medical findings in VHL disease:

  • Tumors in the brain and spinal cord
    They can cause headaches, dizziness, and neurological symptoms.

  • Tumors in the retina
    They can lead to visual impairment.

  • Kidney diseases
    These include kidney cysts and renal cell carcinomas (kidney cancers).

  • Pancreatic diseases
    They include cysts and tumors in the pancreas.

  • Tumors and cysts in other organs, such as the liver, lungs, or reproductive organs.

Important: the clinical presentation varies from person to person. The age of onset and the course of the disease also vary from person to person.


There are indications and criteria that may indicate VHL.

These include:

  • Family history
    There are cases of VHL or other genetic tumor diseases in the family.

  • Ongoing tumor diseases
    Presence of cysts and tumors in various organs in the body..

Since the disease is caused by a genetic defect, genetic testing is crucial to confirm the diagnosis. Individuals with a genetic predisposition to VHL should be closely and regularly monitored by a team of specialists from various disciplines.


Thanks to intensive research in recent years, medical knowledge and therapy options for treating VHL disease have significantly improved. Nevertheless, the treatment remains complex. The main aim is to remove tumors and cysts, if possible, to reduce their size or stop their growth before they become so large that they cause permanent discomfort.

Treatment options include:

  • Surgery to surgically remove tumors or cysts.
  • Laser therapy for certain tumors, for example of the eye.
  • Radiotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), a procedure in which cancer cells are killed by heat.
  • Medication therapies to contain tumor growth.

The suitability and timing of these treatment options vary from person to person and depend on the specific tumors, symptoms, and overall health condition.

Picture: Doctor in conversation with patient

Information for medical professionals

For further information on MSD medicines and vaccines, please visit mymsd.ch, the web portal exclusively for medical professionals.

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Information for patients

Are you looking for information about specific diseases, their causes, symptoms, prevention or treatment? Discover msd-gesundheit.ch, the information platform exclusively for patients.

CH-NON-02547, 02/2024

We are a Top Employer!

For the 12th time in a row, our company has received the "Top Employer" award. The award recognizes the variety of benefits that MSD offers to its employees, such as the working-from-home policy or the generous parental leave for mothers and fathers of 16 weeks.

19 February 2024

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MSD Switzerland recognized as a Top Employer for the 12th consecutive year

Every year, the independent Top Employers Institute certifies organizations that are focused on putting their employees in the first place and provide an attractive workplace environment that encourages professional and personal development. The certification is based on the participation and results of an HR Best Practices Survey including over 100 questions which cover 600 “people development” practices across various topics.

Important factors for getting the Award include above-average ratings in:

  • Human Resources management
  • Compensation and social security
  • Career opportunities
  • Working conditions
  • Training and continuous education, and
  • Corporate culture.

MSD achieved excellent results in all survey categories

Our company scored highly in all 6 survey categories, and we are especially proud of the top scores in two crucial categories: Develop and Unite. These categories recognize the company’s efforts in driving performance, career growth and learning opportunities, as well as promoting values, ethics & integrity, sustainability, and diversity & inclusion within the company.

Daria Tyuvina, HR Director at MSD Switzerland

“We are honored to be recognized as a Top Employer in Switzerland once again. The award underlines our ongoing commitment to fostering a happy, healthy, and engaged workforce.”

Daria Tyuvina, HR Director MSD Switzerland

Employee benefits at MSD Switzerland

Since 2020, all new parents receive 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave within the first twelve months of the birth or adoption of a child, regardless of gender. This is one of the most generous and inclusive provisions in all of Switzerland, where only two weeks of parental leave is required by law. In the same year, MSD introduced a new arrangement that gives employees and managers full flexibility over the amount and frequency of remote work. MSD is also investing heavily in digitalization in the workplace, presenting itself as an even more agile company with a stronger focus on growth, training and development.

Diversity and inclusion are important to us

MSD actively promotes diversity and inclusion, for example with various internal networks such as the Womenʼs Network, the Next Generation Network, the Rainbow Alliance (representing our LGBTQ efforts), the CapAbility Network and the Network for Employees of African Origin. Furthermore, MSD intends to initiate additional networks.
The afore mentioned initiatives are important milestones on the way to an ever better offering for all MSD employees in Switzerland. They demonstrate MSD’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and well-being. More importantly, they represent the company’s values and its belief in how to achieve the best balance between private life, family and career.

Want to know more about us and MSD as a company?

Read our stories!

CH-NON-01563, 02/2024

Infectious Diseases

MSD’s Commitment to Combating Antimicrobial Resistance: A Call for Global Action

Alarming levels of drug-resistant infections have been reported in humans and animals in countries of all income brackets.

16 November 2023

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Image: a scientist holds a petri dish.

AMR is a problem for all of us and it will take all of us working together to address it. In the spirit of this year’s WAAW theme, “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together,” MSD reiterates the commitment to addressing AMR globally via a “One Health” approach, but also calls on the need for collective action from industry, governments, multilateral organizations, and civil society to work together to fully address the rising threat of AMR.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) provides an important opportunity to raise public awareness that AMR represents one of the greatest threats the world faces

AMR is sometimes called the “silent tsunami”, as it has not yet received the attention it deserves but continues to inexorably rise.

The facts:

  • In 2019, almost 5 million deaths were associated with AMR, more than all other causes of death other than heart disease and stroke.
  • Alarming levels of drug-resistant infections have been reported in humans and animals in countries of all income brackets.
  • AMR poses a formidable challenge to the global economy, with significant risks for sustainable food production and global trade.
Image: bacteria closeup

Mitigating AMR: Strategies and Imperative Actions

AMR can’t be fully stopped, but there is knowledge on how to slow down AMR and help public health systems get ahead of it. This can be done by implementing evidence-based policies such as antimicrobial stewardship programs, which help ensure antimicrobials are only used when they are truly needed, as well as preventative vaccination that can help limit the need to prescribe antimicrobial medicines.

However, completely overcoming AMR solely through stewardship is not feasible. It is necessary to complement these efforts with a robust and diverse pipeline of new antimicrobials under development to ensure effective treatments against the increasing rates of resistance to existing medicines.

Shortage of New Antimicrobials: Commercial Challenges and Declining Investment

Unfortunately, the general pipeline of new antimicrobials is woefully inadequate to address both current and future AMR threats. Relatively few are in development today due to a confluence of unique challenges that make antibiotics commercially unsustainable. As a result, investment into new antimicrobials has declined significantly, with many companies exiting this space. Those that remain struggle to remain commercially sustainable, and several biotech’s with approved antibiotics meeting unmet AMR needs have filed for bankruptcy.

MSD’s pioneering role and the AMR Action Fund

For over a century, MSD has played a leading role in combating AMR, not only discovering and developing a range of medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent infectious diseases in humans and animals. As one of the last large pharmaceutical companies committed to addressing AMR, MSD sees the urgency to find solutions to the market failures for novel antimicrobial medicines to drive antimicrobial innovation.

Recognizing the need to buy time for governments around the world to advance policy solutions to these market failures, in 2020 MSD joined a group of 20 leading biopharmaceutical companies to launch the $1B AMR Action Fund. This groundbreaking partnership aims to bring two to four new antimicrobials to patients by 2030.

As a lead investor, MSD has committed $100 million over 10 years to help bridge the gap between the antimicrobial pipeline and patients. But the Fund is a temporary and time-limited bridge that will only work if governments make the necessary reforms to create a sustainable market.

MSD is also working with industry partners, governments, health care providers, and others to support AMR surveillance, promote appropriate use, and prevent infections through vaccination through a One Health approach.

  • MSD maintains one of the world’s largest and longest running AMR surveillance study, the Study for Monitoring Antimicrobial Resistance Trends (SMART). Launched in 2002, SMART enables researchers to monitor the susceptibility of bacteria to antimicrobials and identify trends in the development of resistance.
  • Dedicated to preserving and improving the health and wellbeing of animals, MSD is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of animal vaccines, producing over 102 billion doses per year to help prevent infections that may require the use of antimicrobials.
  • Recognizing the critical role for antimicrobial stewardship to slow the development of resistance, MSD has collaborated with over 1,100 hospitals in 28 countries as an antimicrobial stewardship resource and partner to create patient-centric, product-agnostic stewardship programs around the world.

CH-NON-02483, 11/2023


What we do to support Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. A month dedicated to those affected and to raising public awareness about the causes, early detection and prevention of the disease. Did you know lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide? At MSD, we are committed to fighting lung cancer and improving cancer care. Learn how we support Lung Cancer Awareness Month.


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Lung cancer awareness

In Switzerland around 4,800 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year and about 3,300 die from it. Almost all new patients are over 50 years of age at the time of diagnosis. Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread. Therefore, they are often diagnosed at a late stage. If the cancer has already spread outside the lungs, the prognosis for patients is very poor. But because of new effective treatments, this is changing. Many people think a lung cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. However, over the past decade, new advancements have been made, which have led to more survivors and more hope for those facing the disease.

At MSD, we show solidarity for those affected and continue to push for progress in cancer care.”

Despite how common lung cancer is, there are still many misconceptions about the disease. That’s why we support various initiatives to raise awareness!

Website for lung cancer patients

The website on the MSD Patient Portal provides detailed information on the main types of lung cancer, diagnosis and treatment options, answers to the most frequent questions and information on where patients can get advice and support.
In addition, lung cancer patients can download various checklists with questions to help them prepare for their next doctor’s appointment.

Visit the MSD Patient Portal (in German, French, Italian)

Image: lung cancer website in the MSD patient portal
Image: public event on lung cancer

Public event about lung cancer

As part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, we would like to draw attention to the topic of lung cancer, raise awareness of the disease and highlight the importance of early detection.

In this respect, we are co-sponsoring a public event on November 2, 2023 in Zurich.

You are cordially invited to attend.

Find out more (in German)

Online lung check

In many cases, lung cancer is only discovered at an advanced stage. This may be because the signs and symptoms are also typical of other diseases and are not immediately associated with lung cancer.

Do you know the symptoms of lung cancer? Do you have symptoms that you should have checked out by a doctor?

Take the online lung check! (in German, French and Italian)

Image: online lung check

About our clinical research in Oncology

Did you know that MSD operates one of the world’s largest and fastest growing clinical research programs in oncology? It currently includes more than 1,600 clinical trials. Switzerland is part of this research program. Our team currently coordinates 34 clinical trials in different tumor types (as of 10/2023). MSD is also one of the leading companies in the research of vaccines against preventable diseases, such as cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers. In Switzerland, we collaborate with various partners to advance innovative solutions in cancer treatment. In recent years, we have made an important contribution to improving treatment options for cancer patients.

Find out more about our work here.

CH-NON-01949, 10/2023

Our team

In October we support Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know breast cancer is the most common cancer in women? At MSD, we show solidarity with those facing breast cancer and do everything we can to support further advances to help fighting the disease. Especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month October we support various activities to educate about the importance of prevention and early detection. Learn more about our commitment.


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Banner: MSD supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month October

In Switzerland, around 6,500 women and 50 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Although new therapies have improved the prognosis of patients with breast cancer, around 1400 people still die from the disease in Switzerland every year.

“We stand united for the mothers, sisters, daughters and loved ones impacted by breast cancer and do everything we can to drive further innovation to help save and improve lives.”

As with many other cancers, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chances of a cure. That’s why we support various initiatives to raise awareness!

Awareness campaign in the Pink Cube

In October, we support the awareness campaign “Sag Nein zu Brustkrebs, sag Ja zur Früherkennung! ” (Say no to breast cancer, say yes to early detection) in partnership with EUROPA DONNA Switzerland and the sponsors GILEAD and AstraZeneca.

On 8 days in October, the pink container “Pink Cube” will be located in Liestal, Chur, Baden and Zurich, where gynecologists will offer interested visitors free consultations and breast examinations. Everyone is invited to visit the Pink Cube.

Find out more here

Banner: Pink Cube Campaign 2023
Banner: website about breast cancer

Website about breast cancer

Just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month October, we have expanded our patient portal MSD Gesundheit with information about breast cancer. The website provides detailed information about the disease including risks and options for prevention, early detection and treatment of breast cancer.

In addition, the website offers answers to the most frequently asked questions about breast cancer and information on where affected people can get advice and support.

Visit the MSD Patient Portal

Pink Ribbon Charity Walk

A feelgood moment for our colleagues with more than 50 MSD Switzerland team members taking part in the Pink Ribbon Charity Walk. 

The solidarity walk celebrates survivors, remembers those that we have lost, raises awareness, and much-needed funds to work towards the vision of zero deaths from breast cancer.

Our collective total distance was 208 km! It wasn’t just the Oncology team members, we were there as a cross-functional MSD team showing our joint commitment to fight breast cancer together.

MSD employees at the Pink Ribbon Charity Walk

Facts about breast cancer you should know

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, accounting for nearly one-third of all cancer diagnoses. In Switzerland, about 6,500 women and 50 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and around 1,410 people die from it each year. The rate of disease increases with age. Nevertheless, a quarter of all patients are younger than 50 at the time of diagnosis. Breast self-examination is one of the easiest breast cancer detection methods that every person should do. For women over 50, mammography is recommended to detect breast cancer at an early stage.
The earlier breast cancer is detected and treated, the better the chances of cure. That’s the message we want to get across to everyone!

About our clinical research in Oncology

Did you know that MSD operates one of the world’s largest and fastest growing clinical research programs in oncology? It currently includes more than 1,600 clinical trials. Switzerland is part of this research program. Our team currently coordinates 34 clinical trials in different tumor types (as of 10/2023). MSD is also one of the leading companies in the research of vaccines against preventable diseases, such as cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers. In Switzerland, we collaborate with various partners to advance innovative solutions in cancer treatment. In recent years, we have made an important contribution to improving treatment options for cancer patients.

Find out more about our work here.

CH-NON-01897, 10/2023

Our team

Volunteering? A point of honor for us at MSD

Did you know that MSD employees can use 40 hours of paid working time each year to volunteer in various projects? Here you can find out how this can look like.

13 October 2023

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Picture: Volunteers 2023

Clean-Up-Days in Lucerne und Zurich

Every year, our employees support voluntary activities for their communities. The Clean-Up-Days in Lucerne and Zurich, organized together with the IG Sauber Umwelt (IGSU), are an example of such a volunteering opportunity.

Employees from all five MSD Switzerland locations were invited to roll up their sleeves on two days and help to rid the cities of Lucerne and Zurich of waste. A team of over 50 employees gathered to work together for this good cause.

«We have collected over 68 kg of waste and disposed of it correctly!»

Anabel D., MSD employee at the Citybay location, Lucerne

Picture: MSD employees in action
MSD employees in action
Picture: 2.5 kg of cigarette butts collected
2.5 kg of cigarette butts collected
Picture: Clean-Up-Days in Lucerne and Zurich
Clean-Up-Days in Lucerne and Zurich

Why volunteering is important to us at MSD

Volunteering at MSD means get involved for worthy charitable organizations on a voluntary basis during paid working hours. Another possibility is to contribute your professional skills to international projects within the MSD Fellowship for Global Health Programs.

Our volunteer commitment is a sign of solidarity. It aims to promote a culture of social interaction, improve the living conditions of disadvantaged people and benefit the community. Simply put, with our commitment we want to help and give something back to society and our environment. Those who volunteer also take advantage of the opportunity to network with other MSD colleagues and learn or improve skills that are not part of their everyday work routine.

«The Clean-Up-Days were a great experience and an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues from other locations.»

Rafael F., MSD employee at The Circle location, Zurich

CH-NON-02013, 10/2023


What is pulmonary hypertension?

Shortness of breath, tiring more quickly and reduced capacity are amongst the early signs of pulmonary hypertension. Learn more about this chronic disease.


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glückliches paar am see

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a chronic pathological increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary vessels that can result in a significant impairment of physical capacity. Due to its unspecific symptoms, it is often difficult to detect pulmonary hypertension. If it is not treated, it can be life-threatening.

Diagnosing pulmonary hypertension is not easy

The complaints are at first often mild and may also indicate other diseases such as asthma, bronchitis or chronic fatigue syndrome. That is why it can take on average up to 2.5 years to make a diagnosis. This is valuable time in which the patient is not receiving any effective therapy.

The initial symptoms of pulmonary hypertension may include:

  • Shortness of breath during physical exertion such as when climbing or going up stairs
  • Increased fatiguability
  • Feeling of tightness in chest
  • Heart palpitations, faster heartbeat
  • Dizziness during intense physical exertion
  • Reduced capacity

In an advanced stage, these complaints may occur:

  • Signs of a decreasing pumping power of the right heart, such as water accumulations in the legs (oedema) and distended jugular veins
  • Intense chest pain, as in a heart attack
  • Blue lips as a sign of reduced oxygen supply to the body, low or falling blood pressure readings in the systemic circulation

Treatment of pulmonary hypertension is done by a team of specialists

Only specialists with extensive experience can treat pulmonary hypertension because the therapy is complex and must be individually adapted to each patient based on the causes and symptoms. Therefore, it is important that those affected be treated in a specialised centre for pulmonary hypertension.

In Switzerland there are several specialised centres for pulmonary hypertension, so-called PH centres

In a PH centre, experts from different medical specialties collaborate in an interdisciplinary manner to enable patients with pulmonary hypertension to receive the therapy that gives them the greatest possible quality of life. The specialists are able to detect, diagnose and treat pulmonary hypertension. Moreover, PH centres are established for emergencies and offer those affected round the clock support.

Overview of PH centres in Switzerland

woman holds her hand over her heart

Our commitment

The sooner pulmonary hypertension is diagnosed and treated, the sooner a patient can benefit from an improvement in the quality of his or her life. With our commitment, we wish to contribute to the clarification and early detection of the disease.

members of the SGPH standing on the maedow

Support for patients

The Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Pulmonale Hypertonie SGPH [Swiss Society for Pulmonary Hypertension, SGPH] is a panel of experts and is available as a reference centre on the subject of pulmonary hypertension for physicians and patients.

CH-NON-01409, 09/2023

Our team

Skin cancer prevention: Lunch & Learn about «Melanoma»


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Collage Lunch&Learn Melanoma

More than 100 colleagues took the opportunity to participate in today’s Lunch & Learn, either in person or online. The following is an excerpt of what they learned.

We are committed to the fight against cancer

Switzerland is one of the countries with the highest melanoma incidence rate in the world. Although the average age at diagnosis is 65, melanoma is also one of the most common cancers in young adults under 30, especially women.

«As one of the world’s leading companies in the field of oncology, we consider our responsibility to educate people about cancer and how to prevent it.»

Picture Panos Neofytos
Panos Neofytos, AVP, International Oncology Marketing

Facts about melanoma

  • There are different forms of skin cancer. Melanoma is the most severe form.
  • Melanoma can develop not only on the skin, but also, for example, in the eye or in the mucosal membranes.
  • The main risk factor for melanoma is UV radiation with sunburn, especially during childhood and adolescence.
  • Other risk factors include among others a large number of moles, family history, genetic susceptibility and a weakened immune system.

«The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the prognosis. It’s important to check the skin regularly.»

Picture Lynda Bellagha
Lynda Benmahammed Bellagha, MD, Regional Director Medical Affairs Oncology

Melanoma patient Werner

Werner has a so-called “hidden” melanoma. In his case, the tumor grew inward without any external signs. When he was diagnosed with melanoma, it was twelve, not five to twelve. At the Lunch & Learn, he spoke with Nadia Pellanda, Director EUCAN Oncology Policy. His story is told here (in German, French and Italian).

«Before my illness, I didn’t really know anything about melanoma.»

Nadia Pellanda interviews Werner Buri
Melanoma patient Werner and Nadia Pellanda, Director EUCAN Oncology Policy

The ABCD rule

We can actively contribute to reducing the risk of melanoma by ourselves. The most effective measure is sun protection. It is also important to check the skin regularly and to have conspicuous changes examined by a doctor. The so-called ABCD rule is a helpful support to recognize a conspicuous mole

Find out more here (in German, French and Italian)

Banner: Melanoma-Quiz

CH-NON-02365, 09/2023


Inside Schachen: a glance at our high-tech development center

Our MSD site in Schachen in the Canton of Lucerne is no ordinary site. It is a fusion of the most modern technology, innovative research and development, and an inspiring work environment.


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MSD Schachen: drone shooting

Our site in Schachen plays a key role in the development of new, innovative medicines. Since its establishment in 1976, the site has continually grown. Today, about 490 employees from 30 countries work in Schachen.

Here is what we do in Schachen:


We manufacture biotechnological active substances.

In Schachen, we have at our disposal biotechnical production on a clinical scale for producing new active substances, as well as capacities for sterile filling of new medicines.

Stainless steel bioreactor


We supply medicines for global clinical studies.

Schachen is one of only two sites in MSD’s global network that provides new medicines for clinical studies worldwide. Here, the clinical test samples are packed, labeled and then shipped to clinical sites all over the world. The strictly monitored studies show whether the new medicines are effective and safe.


We develop analytical methods for new active substances and medicines.

Analytical development is one of our main areas. In various specialized laboratories, we examine cell cultures, conduct tests with bioassays and offer everything needed to develop analysis methods for new active substances and medicines, from PCR analytics and mass spectroscopy to biochemical analyzes.


We work on analysis methods that allow a continuous production process to be seamlessly monitored and controlled.

Continuous production processes in the pharmaceutical industry are still the exception because the technical and regulatory requirements are very high.


We operate a forensic laboratory in which suspected cases of counterfeit medicines are investigated.

In Schachen, we operate one of three forensic laboratories worldwide with the goal of quickly detecting manipulations and counterfeits of MSD products. Our scientists work with the aid of analytical methods and highly specialized instruments to differentiate counterfeits from original products and, if necessary, to present the results in court as experts to support corresponding criminal prosecutions. They also work on further optimizing the counterfeit protection of MSD products worldwide.

MSD Schachen: forensic laboratory

«At the Schachen site, it’s not just a matter of the most modern technology and innovative research, but primarily about people. I am incredibly proud of our team, which works passionately and is committed to improve the lives of patients with ground-breaking discoveries and the development of new medicines. Their untiring commitment makes Schachen a place where we achieve greatness together


CH-NON-02294, 07/2023


Health protection through vaccination

Do you know diseases that vaccination can help to prevent? Here you can find out more.


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Vaccines help protect against diseases by very cleverly inducing immunity in our bodies. They present our bodies with a substance recognizable as the infection – for example a virus or bacterium constituent. This tricks the body’s immune system into producing antibodies and an immune memory, which then provide protection if exposure to the actual infection occurs. This immunity may be retained for years, decades, or even a lifetime following vaccination.

The following overview shows some diseases and infections that vaccination can help to prevent (as of June 2023):


Human papillomaviruses

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are widespread. To date, more than 200 types of the virus are known. A distinction is made between high-risk and low-risk HPV types. The latter can cause genital warts in women and men. These are harmless but rather unsightly and annoying skin changes (nodules) in the genital area. The high-risk types can trigger forms of cancer in women and men, such as cervical cancer or vaginal, penile, anal, and throat cancers.


Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver (jaundice), which is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is transmitted via the blood or body fluids of an infected person (e.g. sexual intercourse). Hepatitis B is highly contagious. The infection is considered to be chronic if the virus is in the blood for longer than six months. WHO estimates that two billion people are infected by the hepatitis B (HBV) virus worldwide. 257 million of these are already chronically ill; over 880,000 people die every year as a result. In Switzerland, about 44,000 people live with hepatitis B.


Pneumococcal Disease (PD)

PD is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus. Pneumococcal diseases occur sporadically worldwide – outbreaks are rare. Several million people are affected each year and over one million of them die, many despite timely antibiotic treatment. The burden of disease is particularly high for infants under 2 years of age,among those aged 65 years and older and people of all ages with chronic conditions such as chronic heart disease or chronic respiratory disease. In Switzerland, there are about 1000 severe pneumococcal infections per year, mostly pneumonia, less frequently blood poisoning or meningitis. Children under two years of age and persons over 65 years of age are mainly affected. A total of around 100 people die each year, of whom around 80% are over 65 years of age.



Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the highly contagious varicella zoster virus (VZV). The virus causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever. Chickenpox is most common in children but anyone who has not had chickenpox can get the disease.



Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can occur at any age. It begins with fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, photophobia, inflammation of the oral mucosa and is often accompanied by cough, colds and sore throat. Uncomplicated cases heal quite quickly and without permanent consequences. However, there is a risk of complications such as brain inflammation (encephalitis; 1 per 1000 cases), pneumonia (measles pneumonia; 10 to 60 per 1000 cases) or middle ear inflammation (otitis media). Sometimes measles complications lead to death.



Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It typically starts with headache, discomfort and fever, followed by the characteristic swelling of the parotid glands. Mumps is generally a mild children’s disease that mainly affects children between the ages of five and nine. However, adults can also become infected with mumps, which can be associated with serious complications.



Rubella is a contagious, generally mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults. While the illness is generally mild in children, it has serious consequences in pregnant women causing fetal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). The rubella virus is transmitted by airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough. Humans are the only known host.

More information on protecting health through vaccinations: BAG Vaccinations & Prophylaxis

CH-NON-01256, 07/2023