Our history

GlaxoSmithKline started operations on 1 January 2001 following the merger of GlaxoWellcome plc and SmithKline Beecham plc, but our combined histories go back much further than that.

Find out about the many products and mergers that led to the GSK we know today.

Plough Court Pharmacy


Plough Court Pharmacy established

Plough Court pharmacy is established, the forerunner of Allen and Hanburys, in London by Silvanus Bevan. The A&H name continues today.

Historical sinage of John Smith & Co.


John K Smith opens his first drugstore

1830 John K Smith opens his first drugstore in Philadelphia. John's younger brother, George, joins him in 1841 to form John K Smith & Co.

Historical advertisement for Beechams pills


Beecham’s Pills brand launches

Thomas Beecham launches the Beecham's Pills business in England. The laxative is to become widely successful.

Mahlon Kline


Mahlon Kline joins Smith & Shoemaker

Joseph Nathan


Joseph Nathan and Co is founded

1873 Joseph Nathan, who left the UK to seek new business opportunities 20 years before, establishes a general trading company at Wellington in New Zealand – Joseph Nathan and Co – the foundation for the Glaxo company to be formed later.

A Burroughs Wellcome advert


Burroughs Wellcome and Company is established

1880 Burroughs Wellcome & Company is established in London by American pharmacists Henry Wellcome and Silas Burroughs, four years after Joseph Nathan opened a London office.

A bottle of Tabloid Empirin


Burroughs Wellcome registers ‘Tabloid’ trademark

‘Tabloid’ is registered as a Burroughs Wellcome trademark to describe its compressed tablets. By 1898, the word was being used generally to describe a compressed or concentrated dose of anything. Hence the term ‘tabloid journalism’, which first appears in written records in 1901.

John K Smith office


Smith, Kline and Company acquires French, Richards and Company

The original company that John K Smith founded went through numerous mergers and acquisitions. Probably the most important was the company's absorption in of French, Richards and Company, another respected drug wholesaler.

A building with a Glaxo Bonnie babies billboard


‘Glaxo’ trademark is registered
The Nathan directors realised that selling dried milk as an infant food called for a more appealing name than Defiance, the name used for the New Zealand product. They settled on Lacto, but this was not acceptable because similar names were already registered. By adding and changing letters, the name Glaxo evolved and was registered in October 1906.


Betnovate is launched

Betnovate was the first of Glaxo's range of steroid skin disease treatments. In the mid-1960s, Smith Kline & French also acquired RIT (Recherche et Industrie Therapeutiques), a vaccines business.


Ventolin is launched
Glaxo launches Ventolin as a treatment for asthma, marketed under the Allen & Hanburys name.

A scientist performing an experiment


Amoxycillin discovered

Scientists at Beecham Research Laboratories discover amoxycillin and launch Amoxil, which will become a widely-used antibiotic


Zantac and various other products launched
Augmentin was also launched in 1981 by Beecham to combat a wide range of bacterial infections in children and adults, and the antiviral Zovirax was launched by Wellcome for herpes infections.


SmithKline Beecham plc is formed
SmithKline Beckman and the Beecham Group merge to form SmithKline Beecham plc.

Glaxo and Wellcome documents


Glaxo and Wellcome merge to form Glaxo Wellcome


SmithKline Beecham and the WHO join forces against LF

SmithKline Beecham and the World Health Organization announce a collaboration to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) by the year 2020.


Planned merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham is announced

Man with lymphatic filariasis


The first 100 million albendazole tablets are donated as part of our commitment to fight lymphatic filariasis

Doctor writing a prescription


Clinical Trial Register launched

The Clinical Trial Register (today the Clinical Study Register) is launched, an internet site containing clinical trial data that anyone can access.

Viiv offices


Stiefel acquired - ViiV Healthcare launched

GSK becomes a leader in skincare with the acquisition of Stiefel. GSK and Pfizer launch ViiV Healthcare, a company focused on delivering advances in treatment and care for HIV communities.

GSK building


Human Genome Sciences and GSK receive approval for Benlysta, the first new lupus treatment in 50 years

GSK headquarters Brentford


We are an official supplier to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, providing laboratory services for official anti-doping measures


In March 2015 we acquired Novartis’s vaccines business (excluding influenza vaccines) and combined our Consumer Healthcare businesses to create a new company.