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The Human Tragedy Behind A Drug Deal

Shares of Teva Pharmaceutical (there’s awkwardly no “s” at the end because its full name is Teva Pharmaceutical Industries) are once again trading at an historic high.

But they might not be there today if it weren’t for a tragedy.

One of my Twitter followerstweeted this link to an articlethat details the awful backstory on what happened to the founder of Ratiopharm. Teva is buying the German generic drug company for nearly five billion bucks. Adolf Merckle literally threw himself in front of a train because he lost his shirt speculating in shares of VW. So, his family put Ratiopharm on the auction block.

He owned a drug company. No doubt, he could have had access to all sorts of pharmaceuticals. But instead of taking an overdose, he committed the ugly, messy spectacle of jumping in front of a train.

I bumped into German business n-TV reporter Lars Halterat the Nasdaq this morning as I was getting ready to interview Teva’s North America CEO Bill Marth . Halter was here to interview Lindsey Vonn who was ringing the opening bell. Anyway, he and I got to talking about the Ratiopharm story.

Halter is from the area where Merckle lived. He told me the people there are very financially conservative. As Halter described it, they go to work, put their money in the bank and then retire. His take is that Halter may have been driven to kill himself because he was so ashamed and ostracized by having made such risky investments.

It is sadly ironic that Merckle’s demise led to a bidding war between some of the biggest drug companies on the planet for the asset he created. And now, investors are reaping the rewards.

On a much, much lighter note, someone emailed me this very well-produced, clever send-up of the whole Teva sandals/Teva Pharmaceutical pronunciationthing that I touched on in yesterday’s post.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman

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