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!!!!!!!!!!

Trouble in Big Pharma Land: Lilly Freezes Employee Salaries

Posted in BioEducation

The Pharmalot blog reported today that Eli Lilly & Co one of the more progressive big pharma companies to experiment with crowdsourcing and social media to generate new R&D opportunities today announced that it most company employees and executives will not receive base pay increases this year. The company did not announce a freeze in bonuses, however.

In a sign of solidarity with the 99 %, John Lechleiter, PhD Lilly’s outspoken and sometimes controversial CEO, requested that he not receive an increase to his $1.5 million annual salary and incentives. Interesting, as Ed Silverman cogently points out in the Pharmalot post, Lechleiter’s bonus target is 140% of his base salary which put his total compensation for the upcoming year at around $16.4 million!

Last week, the company disclosed that it missed analyst’s stock price estimates and its leading product Zyprexa (antipsychotic) yielded lower than expected sales revenues because of generic competition. Zyprexa sales dropped 44 percent in the fourth-quarter to $749.6 million.

Don’t be surprised if layoffs are next. It may be time for Lilly employees to dust off those CVs and resumes.

Until next time…


Move Over China and India: Latin American Markets Are Sizzling

Posted in BioJobBuzz

While China and India have gotten the most attention as emerging pharmaceutical markets, Latin American markets most notably Mexico and Brazil (okay, it is a South American country but it can be included in Latin America) have been quietly expanding as rapidly as the Indian and Chinese markets. To wit, Denmark-based, Novo Nordisk—the world’s largest insulin maker—recently announced that it will be beefing up its medical consultant (aka sales reps) presence in Latin America over the next two to three years. During this period, the company expects to increase its current headcount of 300 to 800 employees.

Novo currently holds a 50 percent share of the Latin American insulin market. The company currently generates annual sales in Latin America of approximately $360 million. But, its main rivals Sanofi Aventis and Eli Lilly & Co, which sell faster-acting insulins, are beginning to cut into Novo’s market share.  The solution: add more sales reps in the region. While this may be great news for Latin American sales reps, it is not good news for American sales reps. Unless, of course, these reps speak Spanish and are willing to relocate!

Until next time…

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


Looking for a Chemistry Job? This Webinar May Help

Posted in BioJobBuzz

I received a heads-up from the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Sergio Lewis about a free webinar entitled “How to Secure and Nurture a Vibrant Chemistry Career in the 21st Century.” The webinar is scheduled for December 1, 2011 from 2:00-3:00 PM and will be led by Brian Fahie, PhD from Eli Lilly & Co. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

For more information you can download the program here. To register follow this link.

Until next time…

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


Looking Back: The Largest Big Pharma Drug Settlements in the Past Two Years

Posted in BioBusiness

Big pharma continues to lament the increased scrutiny being imposed on it by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Like it or not, the agency’s directive is to insure that the drugs that it approves are safe and effective for the American public. And, for the most part, the agency does its job and frequently catches companies that attempt to break the rules.

To that end, an article that appeared in FiercePharma last October noted that eleven big pharma companies had paid a total of over $6.0 billion in fines to the US government over the last two years or so. The biggest losers include Eli Lilly paid over $1.4 billion in fines because of alleged illegal marketing of its anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa and Pfizer which paid $2.3 billion for marketing missteps with three drugs including Bextra (pain), Geodon (schizophrenia) , Lyrica (neuropathic pain) and Zyvox (antibiotic). 

More recently, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $750 million fine in a whistle blower lawsuit that alleged that the company had sold "adulterated products" manufactured in a Cidra Puerto Rico production facility. Also, the company announced last February that it intends to pay $3.4 billion to settle lawsuits alleging the improper promotion and sale of several of its products including the blockbuster diabetes drug Avandia and Paxil (depression).

The article also included a timeline of some of the other major settlements that have recently taken place (seen below)

With: U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
When: Sept. 30, 2010
Infraction: Novartis agreed to a $422.5 million settlement with the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for its off-label promotion of Trileptal and other allegations against Diovan, Exforge, Sandostatin, Tekturna and Zelnorm.

Forest Labs
With: Dept. of Justice
When: Sept. 15, 2010
Infraction: After marketing Levothroid, an unapproved thyroid drug, Forest Labs received its penalty, to the tune of $313 million. The settlement also covered Forest’s off-label use of Celexa for children’s use.

With: Dept. of Justice
When: Sept. 1, 2010
Infractions: Allergan’s $600 million Department of Justice settlement was broken into two parts: $375 million in fines and $225 million in civil penalties, all of which stemmed from its off-label use of Botox for headaches, pain management and cerebral palsy.

With: U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts
When: July 15, 2010
Infraction: The Irish drugmakers received its $203.5 million fine for its marketing tactics of Zonegran, an epilepsy drug. Also, the company’s U.S. branch pled guilty to a misdemeanor and the company will enter into a corporate integrity agreement with the HHS Inspector General.

Johnson & Johnson
With: Department of Justice
When: April 29, 2010
Infraction: Though J&J’s more infamous woes stem from its phantom recalls, two of the troubled drug maker’s subsidiaries received a $81 million penalty for off-label promotions of Topamax, an epilepsy drug.

With: U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia
When: April 27, 2010
Infraction: In the same week as the J&J settlement, AstraZeneca was hit with a $520 million penalty for its antipsychotic, Seroquel. The company misled doctors and patients about the drug’s safety.

Despite concerted efforts by the US Food and Drug Agency to limit off-label promotion of prescription drugs, most pharma companies continue to see how far they can push the envelope before the agency catches up with them. Given the current budget woes facing FDA, don’t be surprised if the frequency of off label promotion and misrepresentation of prescriptions drugs continue to rise.

Until next time…

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


More Downsizing and Outsourcing at Big Pharma Companies

Posted in BioJobBuzz

The Japanese drug maker Eisai, Co announced that it will cut at least 900 jobs over the next five years to improve operating margins to offset the impending lost of patent protection for Aricept its blockbuster Alzheimer’s  disease treatment. The company did not specify where the cuts would take place.

In other news, based Eli Lilly & Co announced plans to outsource its R&D bioanalytical functions to Advion Biosciences a contract research organization that is building new laboratories Lilly’s home town of Indianapolis, Indiana. Ithaca NY-based Advion is building a 22,000 sq ft facility that will focus on ADME and toxicology experiments that are required for new molecules to enter human clinical testing.

Advion offers a range of Good Laboratory Practice-compliant and discovery bioanalytical services, including liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) for determining small-molecule drugs, macromolecule therapies and biomarkers; immunoassay services; ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) screening; cytochrome P450 inhibition and induction study support; metabolism profiling; metabolite identification; sample management; and sample storage.

According to a press release:

 “Lilly will transition its own drug discovery bioanalytical capabilities to Advion and will offer employees affected by the move the opportunity to join Advion. The new laboratory is expected to be fully operational by the end of May 2011.”

This is another example of big pharmaceutical companies exiting the R&D space. Because of the rampant downsizing and outsourcing of R&D functions to CROs, now could be one of the better times in years to start a biotech company. Big pharma is relying on starts up companies and academic laboratories to be the major source of new molecules that they develop. That said, the age of big “in-house” drug discovery operations at big pharmaceutical companies is drawing to an end. 

Until next time…

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


Sanofi-Genzyme Deal Update: The End May Be Near

Posted in BioBusiness

After seven months of public bickering over an appropriate sale price, the NY Time reports today that Sanofi Aventis may have hammered out a deal that would enable the French drug maker to acquire the world’s largest orphan drug manufacturer Genzyme for $19 billion. According to the report, Sanofi will acquire Genzyme for a $74 per share which is up from it previous offer of $69 per share.

Most analysts and the Genzyme management team felt that the previous $69 per share offer was too low and that the tipping price would be in the mid 70s. This made sense even to outsiders like me because Eli Lilly purchased ImClone, a company with only one approved product on the market, for $70 per share several years ago. Genzyme has multiple FDA-approved products with a strong late stage drug development pipeline. Not surprisingly, Sanofi tendered a low initial stock price purchase offer to give itself flexibility when it decided to enter into serious negotiations.

Despite the long drawn out and tiresome melodrama, the deal is a good one for Sanofi, a company that desperately needs to bolster its biotechnology pipeline and also for Genzyme which has been rocked by biomanufacturing and quality problems for the past couple of years.

Now that this deal is imminent, does anyone have an idea about which biotechnology company may be the next takeover target?

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!!!!


Ho-Hum: Another Day, Another Pharmaceutical Company Joins the Social Media Fracas

Posted in Social Media

The ever watchful Mark Senak of the highly informative EyeonFDA blog today reported that Eli Lilly had taken the social media plunge by creating a twitter account (@Lillypad) and also launching a blog cleverly entitled the LillyPad (get it; pad=launching point etc and the word pad is hot because of the iPAD). Ah, those clever pharmaceutical marketers; they never miss a thing!

As Mark points out in his post, Lilly had previously launched a YouTube Channel in 2008 called LillyDiabetes that almost immediately disappeared after he first blogged about it! According to the EyeonFDA post Lilly launched the blog and joined Twitter

"[b]ecause we feel passionately about a lot of issues that are important to our company and our industry, and we know there’s plenty of passion well beyond our own walls.  Policy issues like health care reform have been top-of-mind with the public for a long time.  And industry watchers are placing an increased premium on trends like corporate citizenship.  These are important dialogues, and we’re happy to provide a forum and participate."

However, as Mark aptly posited in his post, why are we so amazed when a pharmaceutical company launches a blog or engages in a social media campaign? After all, recent research indicates that nearly one-third of companies are blogging and that number is expected to increase to 43 percent by 2012. In fact, pharmaceutical company blogs are quickly becoming de rigueur. So, don’t be surprised if other companies jump on the social media bandwagon over the coming months. Maybe in the future the launch of a pharmaceutical blog, Facebook page or Twitterfeed may no longer be big news or even worthy of a blog post!

A quick perusal of the LillyPad blog reveals that many of the posts deal with issues like improving math and science education, job creation, American innovation, and healthcare solutions. Interestingly, many of these posts are consistent with recent public statements made by Lilly’s CEO John Lechleiter, PhD. It would be great if the LillyPad blog continues to post articles that provide Lilly stakeholders with insights into what management is thinking. This will certainly go a long way to help to create a “conversation’ between the blog and its followers: something that is critical to the success of any corporate social media campaign.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!


Job Cuts Slow But Continue at Pharma and Biotech Companies

Posted in BioJobBuzz

There are signs that the economy is improving and that unemployment levels have dropped from a high of 10.1 % to current levels which are hovering around 9.5 %. While this is good news, job cuts continue at many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as drug candidates fail in clinical trials and technological advances make certain employees dispensable.

Yesterday, Johnson and Johnson announced that it would layoff 300 of 400 employees who work at the Fort Washington, PA plant that was responsible for the recent Tylenol brouhaha and recall. According to a post on the Pharmalot blog:

”The employees are being let go because it is not clear when the plant will operate again. A J&J spokeswoman says the “best estimate” is the middle of 2011. It isn’t clear at this point whether or not any McNeil executives who oversaw operations at the troubled facility will also be shown the door."

In other news, Adolor, a Pennsylvania-based specialty drug maker, announced yesterday that it was laying off 30 workers or 30 per cent of its workforce to preserve capital and advance its opioid bowel dysfunction clinical development program through proof-of-concept studies in 2011. Also on Friday, the company stated in a press release that two new drug candidates it was developing with Pfizer to treat pain caused by osteoarthritis did not work better than a placebo in a Phase II clinical trial involving 400 patients. The company has one drug on the market, Entereg, a treatment that helps restore bowel function in adults who have undergone bowel re-section surgery. Earlier in the week, GlaxoSmithKline, which co-developed Entereg, scaled back its relationship with Adolor.

Finally, Eli Lilly & Co told its employees that it plans to cut 340 information technology jobs in 2010. Most of the cuts will take place in Indiana (Lilly’s corporate headquarters is in Indianapolis). The company has 1,350 information technology employees nationally. Earlier this year, Lilly has said it will eliminate 5,500 jobs by the end of 2011 to save $1 billion.

Until next time…

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