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The Blog of Drug Discovery News

Mixed bag regarding MS

Datamonitor: Good and bad news from EU regulators for major MS players

Despite Biogen’s resolve to maintain its leading position in the MS market, rejection of Fampyra (dalfampridine) today and Novartis’s Gilenya (fingolimod) recommendation for European marketing authorization will deal another blow to its franchise, says independent analyst Datamonitor.

Dr. Trung Huynh, healthcare analyst at Datamonitor, comments: “Gilenya’s recommendation comes as welcome news for European MS sufferers. However, the committee’s negative opinion of Fampyra is a surprise given that it was approved by the FDA.”

“Gilenya, which is widely regarded as a more convenient and effective alternative, will provide heavy competition for Biogen in the market and will lead to a decline in sales for the company. In the sort term though, Biogen will still see sales figures grow as a result of recent price rises on its leading therapies Avonex and Tysabri.”

“Novartis is now set to become the leading player in the multibillion-dollar market and can expect to generate annual revenues of around $2.5 billion by the end of the decade. However, Biogen’s strong pipeline suggest the company will not go down with a fight,” concludes Huynh.


January 21, 2011 Posted by | Corporate | , , , , | 1 Comment

Leaders, layoffs and losses

It’s been an interesting month in the pharmaceutical industry, with a few of the top pharma’s leaders leaving, more pink slips piling up and stocks morphing in the face of all of the change.

On Nov. 30, Merck & Co. Inc. announced its appointment of President Kenneth Frazier, who as Merck’s former chief counsel was instrumental in helping the pharma overcome its Vioxx litigation, as its new CEO. Frazier will succeed current CEO Richard Clark, who will reach Merck’s mandatory retirement age next year. Clark will continue as chairman of the board. Although analysts are optimistic that Frazier will see Merck through its next big challenge—the expiration of the Singulair patent, which accounts for 11 percent of the company’s sales—and continue Clark’s work on investing in the next generation of blockbusters, the announcement prompted a 4 percent drop in Merck’s shares to $34.64.

Recently retired Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler speaks at the Reuters Health Summit in New York

Days later came the news that Pfizer Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Kindler abruptly announced his resignation after four years of leadership at the company. Although Kindler said he needed to “recharge my batteries,” analysts have speculated that he was forced out by a board and investors who are unhappy with Pfizer’s languishing stock price, late-stage clinical failures and a strategy emphasizing repeated acquisitions to boost revenue and cut costs as a way to improve the bottom line. The appointment of Ian Reid, Pfizer’s head of global pharmaceuticals, as Kindler’s replacement has also raised analyst concerns about Pfizer’s long-term performance and leadership. With Pfizer’s shares down 9.6 percent over the last year of Kindler’s tenure, shares rebounded on the resignation news, gaining 20 cents to $16.92.

With the holidays upon us, and many analysts taking a look at the highlights of 2010, layoffs are also making headlines. Fierce Pharma recently unveiled its annual top 10 layoffs list, highlighting the 10 largest job cut announcements by company. Counting the year’s total pink slips at more than 50,000 jobs, the list begins with AstraZeneca, which let 8,550 employees go this year, and counts job losses in the thousands at Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Bayer, Abbott Labs, sanofi-aventis, Takeda, Novartis and Bristol Myers-Squibb. Given how often these companies made the front page of ddn this year with their merger and acquisition activity, these cuts are no surprise, as all of these transactions inevitably mean consolidation of resources.

With new leadership, more modest operations and the pressure of patent expirations, all of this should make for a very interesting 2011 in Big Pharma. As the Yieldpig blog notes, “with the dicey situation in Europe, stubborn domestic unemployment, a housing market that’s bottoming at best, and the great unknown of interest rates, equity portfolios should probably continue to play defense. Big, cheap, pharmas with sick dividend yields should help.”

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Corporate | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More pink slips

Well, the topic is not a new one, and ddn Chief Editor Amy Swinderman did a bang-up job talking about the pharma layoff issue a month-and-a-half ago (click here), but it’s starting to feel like we’re gearing up for another round of these things.

Just over a week ago I posted a story about Roche restructuring/layoff plans (at our web site), and now this:


Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. to cut 1,400 U.S. jobs

EAST HANOVER, N.J.—Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. announced Nov. 30 that it is restructuring its General Medicines field force in the United States to reflect changes in the product portfolio and align resources with strategic growth priorities. The company will reduce its General Medicines field force by approximately 1,400 positions. These changes will be effective Jan. 1, 2011.

The product portfolio within the Novartis General Medicines business is changing due to pending patent expirations and pipeline products. There are new product launches expected within the Primary Care business and significant growth momentum within the Specialty Care business that will drive long-term success. Given these changing dynamics within the portfolio, it is critical to realign the General Medicines field force to sharpen focus on the greatest opportunities for growth. The restructuring is expected to result in a one-time cost of approximately $85 million.

“NPC has a robust pipeline and the future growth potential for our organization remains strong. Proactively evolving our business model will enable us to focus our resources on key launch products and capture opportunities in both primary care and specialty medicines,” said Andy Wyss, head of Novartis Pharma North America and president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.

All reductions will, according to the company, be handled in “a manner consistent with the Novartis commitment to fair and respectful treatment of associates. Outplacement and other support services will be available to impacted associates as well as redeployment opportunities, where they exist, within the Novartis Group of companies.”


Keep those résumés updated, everyone…


December 1, 2010 Posted by | Corporate | , , , , | Leave a comment