It’s the Holiday Season: Time for More Job Cuts in Pharma

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz

While the holiday season (beginning on Thanksgiving) is supposed to be joyous, it is usually the time of year that many life sciences and other large corporations announce job cuts. As expected, two companies, Mylan and Lilly announced today that they will be cutting the size of their work forces and laying off employee.

Mylan, whose CEO was forced to appear before Congressional committees because of the company’s egregiously high price it was charging for EpiPens, announced that it may lay off of as many as 3,500 workers. The reason for the layoffs was to “reduce redundancy” that resulted from Mylan’s $5.3 billion acquisition of Abbott Laboratories generic drug business, the $7 billion it paid to purchase the Swedish drugmaker Meda and the $1.0 billion for several topical skin medications from Renaissance Holdings. The layoffs will purportedly impact less than 10% of Mylan’s global workforce and help to cut costs and refocus operations at the generic drug manufacturer.

Likewise, troubled pharmaceutical manufacturer Lilly, whose CEO abruptly retired earlier this year announced that it was trimming its US pharmaceutical sales force. The announced cuts were related to the recent Phase 3 failure of the company’s Alzheimer’s project solanezumab. A company spokesperson did not disclose the number of sales representative who would lose their jobs.

Finally, this past September, the Danish company  Novo Nordisk, a world leader in the diabetes market, announced it would layoff 1,000 employees worldwide to cut costs and focus it efforts on developing “truly innovative” diabetes products.  Meanwhile, behind the scenes, speculation suggests that the layoffs are in response to payer pressures that are being brought to bear in the US, the company’s largest market.  Many of the cuts are expected in R&D where innovation has been lacking according to company executives.

Although these jobs cuts are taking place, the good news is that these workforce reductions are smaller than those announced in holiday seasons past!

Until next time

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting

 

In Case You Haven't Been Paying Attention: The Indian and Chinese Life Sciences Markets Are Poised For Expansive Growth

Posted in BioBusiness

Over the past week or so there have been daily snippets on various media platforms about business deals and opportunities in the Indian and Chinese life sciences market. While it is not news that many life sciences companies are expanding operations into these markets, the growing frequency of news items about the “goings on” in both markets are noteworthy.

The first bit of news that started the Indian and Chinese life sciences news avalanche, was a note on May 29 that appeared on The Economic Times’ website that reported that New Delhi-based JB Chemical and Pharmaceuticals planned to double the size of its medical sales reps to 1,500 over the next two years to increase its penetration into rural Indian markets. The company had previously divested it over-the-counter consumer business in Russia and other Commonwealth Independent States (CIS; composed of countries from the former Soviet Union) to start up new divisions in gynecology and dental products.

The same day, another New Delhi-based drugmaker called Lupin that specializes in generic drugs, announced that it plans to launch 50 new products by FY12; twelve of which will be generic drugs launched in the US. Both bits of information suggest that new previously untapped commercial opportunities are rapidly beginning to emerge in India and that Indian drug makers are looking to compete in the US and Western European markets that were previously dominated by American, Western European and Japanese companies.

In other India-related pharmaceutical news, an article appeared on June 2 at the Online Pharma Times website that reported that Shlomo Yanai, CEO of the Israeli generic pharmaceutical giant Teva, had flown to India to discuss potential collaborations with pharmaceutical companies there. While most analysts do not think that an acquisition is likely—Teva agreed to buy US-based Cephalon in May for $6.8 billion and also paid $460 million to acquire a controlling stake in Japanese generics group Taiyo Pharmaceuticals—it signals a growing interest by foreign companies to do deals in India to establish a presence it that market.

Like the Indian market, the Chinese market is beginning to heat up. An article at Bloomberg.com published on June 1 reported that Novo Nordisk will boosts its investment in China to preserve its dominance in the diabetes market after rival Sanofi announced a new foray into the Chinese market.

According to a report issued last fall by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group, the Chinese diabetes market is expected to grow from $642 million in 2009 to more that $2.8 billion in 2015. The reason for the increase is attributed to the trend of more people moving from rural areas to cities and changes in eating habits and lifestyles that are contributing to a growing Chinese obesity problem. At present the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta estimates that roughly 8.3 percent of the U.S. population and 6.6 percent of the global population has diabetes

Novo first entered the Chinese market about 15 years ago and in 2002 created a diabetes research center and in 2007, in association with the Chinese Academy of Sciences established a foundation to fight diabetes. This year, the company plans on expanding its insulin packaging plant in China becoming the world’s largest insulin packaging facility.

Likewise, in 2005 Sanofi created a diabetes clinic. Three years later is expanded the clinics operations, established a clinical trial center and entered into a partnership with the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences to develop treatments for diabetes, cancer and neurological diseases.

On Jun 3, Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker (for now) announced that it plans to partner in a joint venture with China’s Zhejian Hisun Pharmaceutical Company to produce generic drugs for the emerging Chinese market. According to the post on Bloomberg.com

“Pfizer is looking for new sources of revenue before it loses U.S. patent protection in November for Lipitor, the cholesterol medication that was the world’s best-selling drug last year with $10.7 billion in sales. Off-patent medicines, including branded generics, are one of the fastest growing segments in the global pharmaceutical market, Pfizer and Hisun said in a joint press release.”

At present, Pfizer is the top drug company in China (by sales) followed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi according to information supplied by the prescription drug intelligence firm IMS. The size of the Chinese drug market is project to grow by 25 percent this year and rough 60% of the existing market is dominated by generic drugs.

Finally, Chinese pharmaceutical companies are also beginning to invest in the US market. Late last week, the Tianjin Tasly Pharmaceutical Group signed an agreement with the State of Maryland to invest $40 million to build a tradition Chinese medicine (TCM) facility to provide TCM training and information. According to a press release:

“Tasly Pharmaceutical is currently preparing materials for approval by America’s Food and Drug Administration and plans to sell compound danshen drip pills in US and European markets. The medicine’s primary ingredient is obtained from the salvia miltiorrhiza species and is used to treat cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Danshen is also known colloquially as red sage or Chinese sage.”

I think it is time to pay more attentions to the ebb and flow of the Indian and Chinese markets!

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (try India and China)!!!!!!

 

The Rumor Mill: Is Cubist Really In Play?

Posted in BioBusiness

For the past several days, the rumor mill has been rampant with suggestions that UK-based Shire may acquire Cubist, a publicly traded Massachusetts-based biotechnology company that sells Cubicin, an antibiotic indicated for the treatment of certain infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Rumor has it that Shire approached Cubist about a month ago with a $44.5-a-share proposal ($2.0 billion) and the pair have been in talks about a deal ever since. Last week, Shire announced that it had entered into a deal to acquire private-held Advanced BioHealing for $750 million. Connecticut-based Advanced BioHealing markets and develops products to enhance wound healing and treat diabetic foot infections in patients with diabetes. Shire’s acquisition of both companies would provide it with a substantial US presence in the antibacterial treatment and diabetes markets.

While Cubist may be a good “fit” for Shire, it is not clear whether or not the company will prevail in its takeover bid. Last month, Cubist settled a patent dispute Teva Pharmaceuticals over Cubicin, which lessened the threat of generic competition by the Israeli drug maker. This sparked speculation among a number of Wall Street analysts that other pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson who are themselves facing generic competition, may consider acquiring Cubist in an attempt to add new antibiotics to their antibacterial portfolios. 

This is not the first time that analysts have speculated that Cubicin may be ripe for acquisition. Almost two years ago, word-on-the-street had it that Novartis may acquire the company. Nevertheless, Cubist is one of the few remaining publicly-traded biotechnology companies that specialize in new antibacterial drug discovery. Its potential acquisition by a big pharma company may signal the end of innovative drug discovery in the antibiotics discovery space. Here’s hoping that Cubist remains independent!

Until next time…

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

 

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Continues Its Westward Expansion

Posted in BioBusiness

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Japan’s largest pharmaceutical company, yesterday announced its intention to purchase the Swiss drug maker Nycomed for 8 to 10 billion euros ($11.4-14 billion). While the deal is not certain to close, it signals Takeda’s intention to purchase its way into the US and European markets.

Takeda acquired Cambridge, MA-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals in 2008 for $8.8 billion, the largest foreign acquisition ever by a Japanese company. The Millennium acquisition was intended to bolster Takeda’s competencies in genomics and oncology drug discovery. If Takeda is successful in its bid, Nycomed would enhance the company’s standing in treatments for gastric, respiratory and inflammatory disorders. Nycomed has operations in roughly 70 countries, with Europe representing 50 percent of the company’s sale and emerging markets 38 percent.

Takeda’s chief executive officer Yasuchika Hasegawa has pursued an aggressive M&A strategy since assuming control of the company in 2003. Historically, Japanese drugmakers intentionally remained small and were content doing business in local and other Asian markets. However, Hasegawa has changed the “game” and has forced some of Takeda’s rivals to emulate his global strategy. To that end, in recent years Daiichi Sankyo Company has purchased Plexxikon and Ranbaxy and Astellas acquired OSI pharmaceuticals as part of a westward expansion.

While Takeda remains Japan’s largest pharmaceutical company, net profit slumped 17 percent last year and the company is losing patent protection for its largest selling drugs, Prevacid (ulcers) and Actos (diabetes). Like Takeda, Nycomed sales are being hit by the loss of patent protection for its largest selling drug Protonix (antacid). Worldwide sales of the drug plummeted by almost 28 percent. Therefore, it would appear that Takeda’s pursuit of Nycomed is based more on its pipeline rather than currently marketed products.

Stay tuned for late-breaking news on the deal!

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!

 

The Convergence of Pharma Celebrity Spokespersons and Web 2.0

Posted in Social Media

Over the past few months, a number of celebrities have agreed to help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies pitch their products in direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns. Perhaps this is related to the economic downturn and these actors are having trouble finding high paying gigs to support their lifestyles. Alternatively, their motives may be altruistic or they or one of their loved ones may suffer from a life-altering or threatening illness.

The latest addition to the celebrity pitchperson parade is the soap opera diva Susan Lucci. After her husband Helmut Huber was unexpectedly diagnosed a decade ago with atrial fibrillation—a type of irregular heartbeat that increase the risk of stroke five-fold, Lucci yesterday announced that she and her husband would partner with Boehringer Ingelheim the National Stroke Association and StopAfib.org to launch a new education campaign to raise awareness of atrial fibrillation. Financial terms of the relationship were not disclosed.

In other news, Amgen and Pfizer yesterday announced the joint launch of "Psophisticated Style:  A Guide to Everyday Style and Psoriasis™," an online resource, providing a wealth of style advice specifically for people with psoriasis.

The new online presence will be hosted by B-list celebrity Tim Gunn, mentor to the designers on TV’s "Project Runway" and chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne, Inc. and dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, M.D., the style guide includes five videos, which illustrate various style issues for individuals with psoriasis. Practical and insightful highlights from each video are also available and can be printed.  The new website is well designed and has a decidedly web 2.0 look and feel to it. And, you can even follow Psophisticated Style on Facebook and share the site with your friends!

According to a press release Addressing Psoriasis™ was developed to inspire people with plaque psoriasis to actively manage their condition, be more confident and not allow the condition to inhibit their everyday style. 

Despite the slow uptake, Pharma’s attitude on the use of social media is beginning to shift. Last week, Eli Lilly &Co announced the launch of Lilly Pad a blog and twitter feed designed to provide information and helpful tips to patients with diabetes. Yesterday at the Business Development Institute’s HealthCare Social Communications Leadership Forum in Manhattan, Todd Siesky , Public Relations Manager, Roche Diabetes Care described an innovative and creative initiative (started two years ago) to establish a network of influential bloggers in the diabetes space. The bloggers are not paid and do not benefit financially from their interactions with the company. Roche interacts with the blogging network on a quarterly basis and has held two summits to bring the bloggers together to brainstorm and interact with one another (Roche covers airfare and hotel accommodations).

Also, Ted Phelan, Senior Regional Scientific Manager Medical Affairs at Astra Zeneca gave an illuminating talk about his company’s efforts to build a physician community in the gastrointestinal therapeutic space. Ted’s take away from his impromptu presentation (the originally scheduled Astra Zeneca representative couldn’t attend) was you won’t be successful unless you understand the needs of community members (he is married to a physician).

For those of you who may not closely follow the pharmaceutical social media space, building Facebook fan pages and creating a Twitter feed are no longer de rigueur. Instead, the next big thing is building company-sponsored, unbranded, online patient and physician communities around different therapeutic indications! Move over Patients Like Me, there may be some new kids on the block in the very near future!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Tweeting!!!!!

 

A Eureka Moment…Of Sorts

Posted in Career Advice

Most scientists fantasize about that so-called eureka moment when, after years of hard work, academic challenges and mental anguish, it all makes sense. While I have experienced these moments from time to time during my career as a scientist, it has happened less frequently as a lay person. This morning, while reading a Science Times article on Thomas R. Friedan , former New York City health commissioner and current head of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, I had one of those moments.

After reading the passage:

campaigns to ban trans fats, post calorie counts in chain restaurants, reduce salt in processed food and tax high-calorie sodas. He had a supportive boss in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and a receptive populace in New York, but if he were to try anything similar at the C.D.C., tough Congressional hearings could be in his future because conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill often oppose such measures

it finally dawned on me that conservatives, in general, don’t give a damn or care about human health. Or perhaps, the underlying message may be: “don’t tell me how to eat or take care of myself; it’s my life and I know what is best for my health and me.” Unfortunately, since over half of the American population is obese or overweight and the incidences of diabetes and hypertension among younger and older adults has reached unprecedented epidemic proportion it is becoming increasingly evident that most Americans, regardless of their political affiliations, don’t know how to adequately manage their health.  And, to make matters worse, the inability or unwillingness of these individuals to maintain their health increases the cost and may block access of otherwise healthy Americans to adequate healthcare.

As an American, I strongly believe in individuals’ rights and freedom of expression. However, I also believe that summarily opposing unobtrusive measures to improve human health—based almost exclusively on political philosophy or personal financial gain—is morally bankrupt and overtly un-American!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Eating!!!!

 

Johnson and Johnson's Antibiotic Ceftobiprole Hits Another Regulatory Snag

Posted in BioBusiness

Johnson & Johnson today announced it received a Complete Response letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for ceftobiprole. The agency requested additional information and recommended additional clinical studies be conducted in order to consider a future approval of ceftobiprole in this indication. J&J’s New Drug Application (NDA) for ceftobiprole was originally submitted to the FDA in May 2007 for the treatment of complicated skin and skin structure infections (cSSSI), including diabetic foot infections.  The company received an approvable letter in March 2008 and submitted what it thought to be the necessary information necessary to garner approval of the new antibiotic

Ceftobiprole is a novel, broad-spectrum, anti-MRSA cephalosporin with activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumonia and many clinically important Gram-negative bacteria, including Pseudomonas. The antibiotic was licensed from Swiss-based Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd. in February 2005. 

The regulatory review process is ongoing in Europe and other countries for the use of ceftobiprole in adults for the treatment of complicated skin and skin structure infections. Ceftobiprole is approved in Canada, Switzerland, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Hong Kong.

J&J intends to discuss the best path forward with the FDA as soon as possible. New antibiotics are necessary to combat the growing trend of multiple drug resistant strains of bacteria that are responsible for an increasing amount of bacterial infections.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

 

Conference Round Up: e-Patient Connections 2009

Posted in Social Media

e-Patients Connections 2009 (#epatcon) was held this past Monday and Tuesday at the Park Hyatt hotel in Philadelphia, PA. BioCrowd was one of several co-sponsors of the event. The theme of the conference, organized by Kevin Kruse a veteran medical communication and training expert, who now runs Kru Research, was to “reach, engage and educate empowered digital health consumers.” And, boy, did it deliver! While this was Kru Research’s first official conference, it was well organized, extremely interactive and the quality of the speakers was second to none! Topics that were featured included social media and the life sciences industry, technological advances in e-based healthcare delivery, the relationship between the news media and healthcare information and the continuing evolution of online and e-based healthcare communities.

Conference attendees included representatives from the life sciences industry, medical communications experts, advertising and marketing professionals and a multitude of social media enthusiasts and consultants who kept the Twitter screen humming throughout the meeting (a big shout out to the “troublemaking table”). And, surprisingly, there was a representative from the Division of Drug Marketing and Advertising and Communications (DDMAC) at the US Food and Drug Administration, who I believe, was one of the most sought after individuals at the meeting. CNN reporter Elizabeth Cohen who writes the Empowered Patient and racecar driver Charles Kimball, a type I diabetic and company spokesperson for Novo Nordisk also gave talks.

My favorite talks were those presented by online patient community organizers including Tricia Geoghegan of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals who created the Facebook ADHD Allies community, Lisa Tate of WomenHeart and Robert Schumm of Bayer Consumer Care who created Facebook Strong@ Heart and Rachel Lewinson of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Organization and Susan Harrow Rago of Novo Nordisk who created Juvenation.org a website dedicated to those with Type I diabetes. These communities are outstanding examples of how partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and advocacy groups can help to better educate the public and heighten awareness about potentially life-altering diseases. Another example of a great online community and healthcare portal is Insomnia 123.com. This website was conceived and constructed by Christine Macadams and her partners’ one of whom is a practicing physician. Unlike the other online communities, which are sponsored and mainly supported by consumer healthcare division of large pharmaceutical companies, Insomnia 123.com was exclusively created by a group of concerned individuals who wanted to better educate and improve the lives of people with insomnia—a largely unreported and self-medicated condition.

On the technical side, the talks presented by Lee Segal of Klick, Kevin Durr of Avantera , Ian Kelly of Red Nucleus and Scott Ballenger of ListenLogic were illuminating and extremely informative. Some of the innovations taking place in digital media are exciting and almost overwhelming at times (even for a social media enthusiast like me). I think the company to watch is ListenLogic which uses semantic search engines to collect real time data and “chatter” on the web. This technology may provide a cost-effective solution to assuage the concerns of many life sciences companies that claim that collecting and analyzing overwhelming amounts of data is one of the main reasons why they are reluctant to entry the social media space.

Marc Monseau of Johnson and Johnson gave an illuminating talk on his experiences as a corporate blogger and Twitter user and described some of the challenges that had to be overcome before his company was able to break the “social media barrier.” Janice McCallum, an economist by training and a healthcare communications and media expert gave an informative talk about the growing role and impact of patient-generated healthcare content on patient awareness and education.

Finally, the novel and innovative Pecha Kucha sessions were outstanding and extremely well done! While all were expertly crafted, Dr. Val’s and Jonathan Richman’s Pecha Kucha were memorable. Dr. Val’s, which was extremely powerful and moving, was performed entirely in verse and Jonathan’s was—well, one of Jonathan’s always entertaining and informative presentations.

In summary, the “e-Patient Connections 2009” was a resounding success and in my opinion reached its goal to “reach engage and educate empowered digital health consumers.” That said, I can’t wait for “e-Patient Connections 2010” meeting!!!

Hat tip to @ellenhoenig and @eileenobrien for inviting me to my first tweetup (great fun) and finally meeting @janice McCallum, @christianeTrue, @stevewoodruff and Silja aka @whydotpharma

Until next time…

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

 

The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners

Posted in Career Advice

Over the past few years, I have heard rumors that artificial sweeteners like saccharine, aspartame and sucralose actually cause people to gain rather than lose weight. I summarily dismissed these stories because they did not make sense to me nor did I think that they had any scientific merit–until today!

Purdue University psychologists Drs. Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson fed rats yoghurt sweetened with glucose (15 calories per teaspoon) or yoghurt containing the artificial sweetener saccharin (0 calories per teaspoon). Rats that were fed the saccharin-sweeten yoghurt subsequently consumed more calories, gained more weight, put on more body fat and were unable to regulate dietary intake of calories as compared with rats that were fed glucose-sweetened yoghurt. The authors surmised that breaking the connection between a sweet sensation and high-calorie food, changes the body’s ability to regulate caloric intake. This could partly explain why obesity has risen with the increasing use of artificial sweeteners in drinks. The study’s findings are consistent with emerging evidence that people who drink more diet drinks are at higher risk for obesity and development of the metabolic syndrome that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

So, how do the authors explain their seemingly paradoxical findings? Swithers and Davidson postulate that ingestion of sugar-rich (sweet) foods provides a ‘salient orosensory stimulus” that signals that the body is about ingest a lot of calories. This, in turn, induces the body to physiologically-prepare itself for ingestion of a high calorie meal. However, when the false sense of sweetness (provided by the artificial sweetener) is not followed by consumption of large amounts of calories, the system gets “confused”– causing people to eat more or expend less energy to account for the calorie imbalance. Nevertheless, the good news is that people who use artificial sweeteners can still count calories to regulate caloric intake and body weight. Unfortunately, as the authors suggest, counting calories requires a more conscious effort and a lot more work than routinely consuming low-calorie foods.

Although this study was conducted in rats, its findings are consistent with the observations that increased use of artificial sweeteners can contribute to human weight gain. Despite the study’s findings, similar experiments must be conducted in people to substantiate or refute the authors’ hypothesis.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (lay off the aspartame and splenda)!!!!!!