AbbVie to Fire Hundreds of Sales Reps

Posted in BioBusiness

AbbVie, the prescription drug spinoff of Abbott Laboratories revealed that it will be laying off several hundred cardiovascular sales reps. The fired workers will be a mix of full time sales personnel and contract workers.  The reason: generic encroachment of its cardiovascular drug franchises. Among those drugs is TriCor, which began facing generic competition in November. TriCor, along with related medication Trilipix, generated $1.1 billion in U.S. sales for AbbVie last year.. Niaspan, an extended-release version of a medicine to raise HDL also will face generic competition this year It sold $911 million for AbbVie in 2012

AbbVie is shifting its focus from primary care, such as drugs that treat a patient’s cholesterol, stroke or diabetes, to so-called specialty medications in areas of unmet health needs

AbbVie is jumping on the elimination of sales personnel bandwagon and joins Eli Lilly which late last week announced that it plans to dismiss hundreds of sales reps tomorrow, a spokesman confirms. The cuts may amount to 30 percent of the companywide sales force in its BioMedicines division, which includes the cardiovascular, neuroscience and Men’s health units Likewise, last Fall, NJ-based Bristol-Myers Squibb layed off 480 sales reps.

Based on the events of the past five years, it may not be a good idea to pursue a career as   a PhD-trained life scientist or a pharma sales rep!  Surprisingly, however, there is a growing need for biopharmaceutical/biotechnology sales reps….go figure!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

The Biotechnology Job Market: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted in BioBusiness

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a Tarrytown, NY-based biotechnology company, today announced plans to add 400 new employees to its fast-growing staff upon completion of two new buildings; additional laboratories and office space.  Regeneron, founded 24 years ago, recently hit its stride after receiving regulatory approval for its first big product called Eylea —a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration—which generated $825 million in sales revenue this past year. This past August, the company received FDA approval for Zaltrap; a colorectal cancer drug that was co-developed with Sanofi.  Finally, the company has a cholesterol-lowering monoclonal antibody drug in Phase III clinical development.  Over the past six years, the headcount at Regeneron has grown from 682 to over 2,000 and the company is still hiring!

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), which eight months ago purchased San Diego-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals for $5.3 billion for it diabetes drug franchise, announced today that it will close Amylin’s corporate headquarters in La Jolla at the end of next year. Employees will be given the option to transfer to other BMS locations. Those who don’t transfer will lose their jobs. At present, 420 people work at Amylin’s corporate headquarters and hundreds will likely be layed off. Before the acquisition, Amylin employed about 1,250 workers. Roughly 300 employees at an Ohio manufacturing site and about 400 sales persons have been absorbed into the BMS workforce. To date, approximately 400 Amylin employees have lost their jobs.

Three weeks ago, pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca announced that it was cutting 1,600 R&D jobs by 2016.  Two days later, the company announced that it would cut 2,300 additional jobs (mainly sales and administrative jobs). This brings the layoffs that the company has announced in the last 15 months to 5,050. Since 2007, the company has eliminated over 32,000 jobs.  While this may sound draconian, it is not: most of Astra Zeneca’s competitors including Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, and Bayer etc. have  layed off just as many employees during the same period.  In fact, since 2001 the pharmaceutical industry has shed well over 300,000 jobs.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!





Amgen Hires Tony Hooper and Lays off Nearly 400 Employees

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Last week Amgen announced that it was reorganizing its R&D structure and that layoffs were likely. Today, the company announced that it had hired Tony Hooper, very recently the former senior vice president, Commercial Operations, and president, U.S., Japan and Intercontinental at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) to overhaul commercial operations. Shortly after the Hooper announcement almost 400 Amgen employees learned that they would lose their jobs.

Hooper will replace Jim Daly as executive vice president of commercial operations at Amgen. During his 16 year tenure at BMS, Hooper ran commercial operations for all of BMS’ products in both mature and emerging markets.

Amgen is reorganizing its R&D efforts because its EPO franchise revenues are declining and it is preparing to launch its recently approved osteoporosis drug called Prolia. According to a post on today’s Pharmalot blog the R&D overhaul is not an across the board reduction but will affect multiple sites. At present, Amgen employs about 17,600 workers worldwide.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!


Bayer CEO: "Make Me An Offer!"

Posted in BioBusiness

Bloomberg news today reported that Bayer AG’s Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers said that he would consider a “merger of equals” to bolster the company’s sagging healthcare division. The division, a minor revenue source for Bayer AG, posted $25.1 billion in sales last year.

While Dekkers did not name the companies that he considers to be Bayer’s “equals”, convention wisdom suggests the list is likely to include Eli Lilly & Co, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) and Amgen, one of the last remaining, large, independent biotechnology companies. Lilly and BMS both  had  sales revenue similar to Bayer’s last year whereas Amgen had lower sales of $15.1 billion. 

The reasons for a potential merger are not entirely clear. However, Bayer Healthcare is waiting to hear about regulatory approval of its new anticoagulant Xarelto medicine for irregular heartbeat patients who face the risk of a stroke. Analysts predict that Xarelto may exceed $2.5 billion in global sales. Approval of Xarelto will change Bayer’s valuation and consequently, don’t expect merger talks to begin until after FDA renders its decision on the drug.

Meanwhile, Bayer’s top-selling multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment betaseron faces competition from a similar Novartis drug called Extavia, and from its new oral MS medication Gilenya. Sales of betaseron fell 5 percent in the first quarter. Moreover, sales of Bayer’s birth-control pill Yaz dropped 18 percent after Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. introduced a generic version of the medicine.

Lilly, BMS and Amgen all face significant challenges in the future and both BMS and Amgen have been repeatedly mentioned as takeover targets. However, from a historical perspective mergers of mediocre or struggling companies rarely yield stronger, more financially robust ones! But, what do I know, I am just a scientist!

Stayed tuned for more updates.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


Off Label Marketing by Pharmaceutical Companies was Pervasive in the early 2000s

Posted in BioBusiness

The pharmaceutical industry, not unlike all big business during the disastrous Bush Administration, was virtually unregulated. Bush and his cronies managed to accomplish this feat by destabilizing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and essentially hamstringing any regulatory authority that it had. Not surprisingly, many pharmaceutical companies saw an opportunity to increase their bottom lines by engaging in off label marketing of many of their approved drugs—a practice clearly forbidden by the agency. 

Despite the fact that off label marketing is illegal, many big pharma companies knowingly and willfully engaged in the practice. Luckily, the Obama administration has reinvigorated and restored the regulatory powers at the agency and FDA is now aggressively investigating and punishing companies that had promoted off-label use of their products over the last decade.

The New York Times today reported that Novartis joins a growing list of pharmaceutical companies that have settled government investigations into health care fraud in the last few years, including Pfizer, which paid $2.3 billion; Eli Lilly, $1.4 billion; Allergan, $600 million; AstraZeneca, $520 million; Bristol-Myers Squibb, $515 million; and Forest Laboratories, $313 million. Pfizer, Lilly, Allergan and Forest pleaded guilty to crimes in the cases. The company was fined $422 million settle criminal and civil investigations into the marketing of the antiseizure medicine Trileptal and five other drugs. 

According to the article, the five other drugs involved in the civil settlement are Diovan, a hypertension drug that is the company’s top-selling product, at $6 billion last year; Sandostatin, a drug to treat a growth hormone disorder that had worldwide sales of $1.2 billion last year; Exforge, a hypertension drug that sold $671 million; Tekturna, a blood pressure medicine that sold $290 million; and Zelnorm, a medicine for irritable bowel syndrome and constipation that was later withdrawn from the United States market.

It is important to make a distinction between the practices of off-label drug use and off label marketing. As many of you may know, licensed US physicians are allowed to prescribe any FDA-approved drugs if they believe that their use will benefit patients. This is off-label drug use. However, in contrast, it is illegal for companies to actively promote or market approved drugs for therapeutic indications for which they have not received regulatory approval. This is off-label marketing and a strategy that has been used by companies to increase sales of approved products without having to spend money on expensive clinical trials that are required to prove safety and efficacy for a new drug to gain regulatory approval. While this may be a backdoor strategy for companies to boost product sales, it clearly puts patients at risk because the actual safety and efficacy for the indications has not been adequately tested and proven.

Many drug makers have been critical of FDA’s increase scrutiny of drug safety and have argued that it has negatively impacted the regulatory approval rates of new experimental medicines. While this may be troubling to many pharmaceutical executives, the FDA was created to insure that all approved drugs are safe and effective and the risk to Americans who use them is minimal. In other words, the agency is simply doing its job—something it was prevented from doing for the past eight years!

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!


Bristol-Myers Squibb to Cut 840 Jobs Worldwide

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Several months ago, I posted an article that suggested that layoffs in the pharmaceutical industry were beginning to slow. Apparently executives at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) didn’t read my blog post (I believe that they have in the past) and today announced that the company will eliminate 840 jobs or 3 per cent of its 28,000 member workforce.

The company says the jobs will be eliminated over the next six months, and the cuts could be spread across all its businesses and geographic locations. A BMS spokesperson indicated that company executives are still reviewing the entire organization to determine which jobs will be eliminated. The new round of layoffs is intended to further streamline the company. Interestingly, BMS purchased Seattle-based Zymogenetics for $885 million two weeks ago.

These cuts coupled with small biotechnology company acquisitions and a recent stock buyback initiative suggests that the company may be positioning itself for sale or merger. BMS’ top selling drug Plavix which represents almost 40 percent of the company’s revenue stream will lose patent protection in 2011.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!


CEO Finally Admits that Genzyme is Up for Sale…At the Right Price!

Posted in BioBusiness

The Boston Globe reported today that this morning Henri Termeer, the embattled CEO of Cambridge, MA based Genzyme acknowledged for the first time that company was indeed up for sale. However, he was quick to point out that the $69 per share or $18.8 billion takeover bid from Sanofi Aventis was insufficient.

Over the past few days, Sanofi Aventis’ CEO Christopher A. Viehbacher turned up the heat on Termeer; forcing him to possibly take Sanofi’s latest offer directly to Genzyme shareholders. While Termeer acknowledged that the company was for sale, he hinted that other companies may join the bidding war to get the $75 per share price that the Genzyme board is seeking. 

The Sanofi Aventis-Genzyme situation is beginning to resemble the Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS)-ImClone standoff of two years ago. As you may recall, Jim Cornelius—BMS CEO at the time—publicly and repeatedly offered a “low-ball” price ($62 per share) to purchase ImClone despite admonishments from Carl Icahn, ImClone’s Chairman. As negotiations stalled, Icahn told Cornelius that there were other suitors who were willing to pay a higher price to acquire ImClone. Surprisingly, rather than continuing to negotiate in good faith, Cornelius decided to call Icahn’s “bluff.” In less than a week, Eli Lilly purchased ImClone for $70 per share ($6.5 billion); the price that Ichan had previously and publicly asked for to purchase the company.

Many of you already know that Icahn holds a substantial minority Genzyme stock position and is represented by two current Genzyme board members. That said, if I were Sanofi’s Viehbacher, I would proceed with extreme caution in future negotiations. Like him or not, Icahn is a financial genius and second-to-none negotiating M&A deals. 

Maybe Viehbacher ought to contact Cornelius for advice? Oh yeah…Cornelius retired as CEO earlier this year but he is still Chairman of the BMS Board of Directors. Maybe it is worth a call?

Stay tuned for new developments as the saga continues.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!


Sanofi Aventis to Reduce Sales and Marketing Workforce to Cut Costs

Posted in BioJobBuzz

The expanding European financial crisis is forcing drug makers to continue to explore ways in which to cut costs. Faced with budget deficits amid a global economic crisis, European countries such as Germany, France and Greece have cut or plan to cut their health-care spending. Greece last month ordered drugmakers, including France’s largest drug maker Sanofi-Aventis, to cut prices by 3 percent to 27 percent to help rescue its economy. 

Not surprisingly, Sanofi Aventis responded by announcing new job cuts and more stringent cost control measures. Yesterday, Sanofi’s Chief Financial Officer announced at an analyst meeting in Los Angeles that “We are restructuring. We are changing our marketing model. We are merging sales forces, we are reducing sales forces, having a multiproduct sales force. We will continue to do that.” Most of the job cuts and cost saving measures will come at the expense of sales and marketing personnel. The size of pharmaceutical R&D and sales and marketing workforces have been devastated over the past three years with over 200,000 employees losing their jobs.

Sanofi-Aventis Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher, who joined the company in 2008, shut or sold plants and canceled the least promising research projects in a bid to trim 2 billion euros ($2.46 billion) in costs. These actions, coupled with the most recent restructuring efforts were enacted to ensure 2013 earnings are at least equal to 2008 profit. Like most other big pharma companies, Sanofi has been looking to emerging markets and consumer products for new income as competition from generic drugs hurts sales. The anti-clotting drug Plavix which is Sanofi’s largest selling drug generating over $4.0 billion annually will lose patent protection in 2011-2012. Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi’s marketing partner for Plavix in the US, also exceeded $4.0 billion in sales last year.

Sanofi also announced today that it acquired the assets of Montreal-based Canderm Pharma, Inc a consumer products company for $1.9 billion signaling its intention to aggressively enter the North American consumer healthcare products markets.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting


Icahn Turns Up the Heat at Genzyme

Posted in BioBusiness

Carl Icahn, who controls about 4.9% of the outstanding shares of Genzyme’s stock, is trying to get himself and three persons loyal to him elected to the Genzyme board of directors via a proxy fight

Icahn has publicly stated that embattled Genzyme CEO, Henri Termeer must go after running the company for the past 25 years. Icahn contends that Termeer has made many bad decisions during his tenure and the recent highly publicized manufacturing problems at the company are causing Genzyme’s stock to plummet.

Icahn’s slate of proposed board members include himself, Dr. Richard C. Mulligan, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Alexander J. Denner an Icahn confidant and Dr. Stephen J. Burakoff, Director of the Tish Cancer Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. If elected the Icahn slate will replace Mr. Termeer, are Connie Mack III, a former United States senator; Richard F. Syron, the former chief executive of Freddie Mac and of Thermo Electron, a scientific instrument company; and Charles L. Cooney, a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As many of you may know, Icahn, who is always referred to as an “activist investor” is no stranger to proxy fights or controversy. Previously, he attempted to oust members of the Biogen-IDEC board of directors—an underperforming company according to Icahn—and more recently, publicly out-maneuvered and humiliated Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) CEO Jim Cornelius by selling ImClone—a long-time BMS co-marketing partner of the blockbuster colorectal cancer drug Erbitux— to Eli Lilly.

Over the years, I have been a staunch critic of Icahn. However, I am beginning to realize that there is a “method to his madness” and surprisingly, things always seem to change for the better at companies that are on his radar screen. Like him or not, Icahn demands performance from the companies that he invests in and will relentlessly work on behalf of himself and other shareholders to get the ROI that he expects.

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


Bristol-Myers Squibb Board Okays $3.0 Billion Stock Repurchase Program; Is BMS Preparing Itself for Sale?

Posted in BioBusiness

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) announced Tuesday that its board authorized the repurchase of up to $3 billion of its common stock.

The company said the buyback program has no expiration date and will take place over the next few years. Company spokespersons said the decision reflects Bristol-Myers’ strong financial position, which included $9.8 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of the first quarter.

While stock repurchase programs are common, BMS is steeling itself for the expected loss of substantial revenues beginning in 2011 due to patent expiry of its top selling anti-clotting medication Plavix. In the past year or so, the company has sold off a profitable medical device subsidiary (Convatec) and a consumer products company (Meade Johnson) to sure up its finances and improve stock share price. 

Long be rumored to be a takeover target, BMS has attempted to reinvent itself over the past few years as a “next generation biopharmaceutical company” through licensing agreements and acquisition of smaller biotechnology companies with promising technology platforms and near term new biotechnology products (Medarex). However, the loss of Imclone—the biotechnology company that developed the one of the top-selling colon cancer drugs called Erbitux—to rival drug maker Eli Lilly has significantly slowed the next generation initiative.

Stay tuned for all late-breaking events.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!