Squibb was founded in 1858 by Edward Robinson Squibb in Brooklyn, New York. Squibb was known as a vigorous advocate of quality control and high purity standards within the fledgling pharmaceutical industry of his time, as one point self-publishing an alternative to the U.S. Pharmacopeia (Squibb's Ephemeris of Materia Medica) after failing to convince the American Medical Association to incorporate higher purity standards. Mentions of the Materia Medica, Squibb products, and Edward Squibb's opinion on the utility and best method of preparation for various medicants are found in many medical papers of the late 1800s. Squibb Corporation served as a major supplier of medical goods to the Union Army during the United States Civil War, providing portable medical kits containing morphine, surgical anesthetics, and quinine for the treatment of malaria (which was endemic in most of the eastern United States at that time).
The Bristol-Myers-Squibb was formed in 1989, following the merger of its predecessors Bristol-Myers and the Squibb Corporation. Bristol-Myers was founded in 1887 by William McLaren Bristol and John Ripley Myers in Clinton, New York (both were graduates of Hamilton College).
In 1999, President Clinton awarded Bristol-Myers Squibb the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest recognition for technological achievement, "for extending and enhancing human life through innovative pharmaceutical research and development and for redefining the science of clinical study through groundbreaking and hugely complex clinical trials that are recognized models in the industry."
A major restructuring involves focusing on the pharmaceutical business and biologic products, along with productivity initiatives and cost-cutting and streamlining business operations through a multi-year program of on-going layoffs. As another cost-cutting measure Bristol-Myers also reduced subsidies for health-care to retirees and plans to freeze their pension plan at the end of 2009.
In August 2009, BMS acquired the biotechnology firm Medarex as part of the company's "String of Pearls" strategy of alliances, partnerships and acquisitions.
In November 2009, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced that it was "splitting off" Mead Johnson Nutrition by offering BMY shareholders the opportunity to exchange their stock for shares in Mead Johnson. According to Bristol-Myers Squibb, this move was expected to further sharpen the company's focus on biopharmaceuticals.
BMS is a Fortune 500 Company (#114 in 2010 list). Newsweek's 2009 Green Ranking recognized Bristol-Myers Squibb as 8th among 500 of the largest United States corporations. Also, BMS was included in the 2009 Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index of leading sustainability-driven companies.
In October 2010, the company acquired ZymoGenetics, securing an existing product as well as pipeline assets in hepatitis C, cancer and other therapeutic areas.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. agreed to pay around $2.5 billion in cash to buy Inhibitex Inc. in concern to compete with Gilead/Pharmasset to produce Hepatitis C drugs. The settlement will be finished in 2 months for its Inhibitex's shareholders acceptance of 126 percent premium price of its price over the previous 20 trading days ended at January 6, 2012.
In 2012, the company donated $6.9 million to the HealthWell Foundation, which provides financial assistance to eligible people for covering co-insurance, co-payments, healthcare premiums and deductibles for certain treatments.
On June 29, 2012 Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMS) extend its portfolio of diabetes treatments when it agreed to buy Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc for around $5.3 billion in cash and will pay $1.7 billion to Eli Lilly to cover Amylin's debt and its obligations to Eli Lilly from ending the collaboration with Amylin. Astra Zeneca, who already collaborates on several diabetes treatments with BMS, will pay $3.4 billion in cash for the rights to develop Amylin's products.
Citing major developments and a market capitalization of US$87 billion and stock appreciation of 61.4%, Bristol-Myers Squibb was ranked as the best drug company of 2013 by Forbes Magazine.
In April 2014 BMS announced its acquisition of iPierian for up to $725 million.
In December 2014 the company received FDA approval for the use of the PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab (Opvido) in treating patients whose skin cancer cannot be removed or have not responded to previous drug therapies.