Another Week in Pharma Job Cuts
Jan28

Another Week in Pharma Job Cuts

This week brought a stream of bad news on the pharma job front, with at least four companies announcing substantial cutbacks. Worse, scientists were the main target for layoffs at three of those companies—Sanofi-Aventis, Arena, and Elan. As everyone's favorite employment watchdog Chemjobber commented on an In the Pipeline post about cuts at Abbott: When, when, when will it stop? Here’s a look back at the news from this week: --Sanofi is shedding 90 research jobs at its Bridgewater, N.J., site as part of “the evolution of the R&D portfolio towards more biologic-based therapies,” the company told C&EN. The French pharma firm is ceasing chemical library and chemical development activities, including pharmaceutical development and analytical science. Meanwhile, discovery-stage laboratory activities within several groups, including Lead Identification Technologies, Structure, Design & Informatics, and Analytical Sciences, will be reduced. Some people will be shifted over to the company’s Molecular Innovative Therapeutics group, which will be transformed into “a cluster of small multidisciplinary biotechs with specialized expertise in key diverse therapeutic approaches.” This new approach sounds an awful lot like what GlaxoSmithKline has been doing over the last two years—creating smaller, more independent units in the hopes of mimicking the culture and innovative spirit of small biotechs. --Arena Pharmaceuticals is cutting 25% of its staff, or 66 employees, by the end of March. The move isn’t unexpected. Last fall, FDA gave the San Diego-based biotech a thumbs down for its obesity drug lorcaserin based on concerns that it had caused tumors in rats. Now, FDA is asking for a slew of new data, meaning Arena will be unlikely to refile its application for approval until 2012, analysts say. See here and here for more on its lorcaserin trials and tribulations. --Abbott is slashing 1,900 jobs in the U.S., mirroring layoffs it made last year in Europe following its acquisition of Solvay Pharmaceuticals. The cuts will come from its commercial and manufacturing operations, with over half the job losses concentrated in Northern Illinois. In a conference call, Abbott CEO Miles D. White blamed the restructuring on several factors: the slow recovery of the global economy, costs associated with healthcare reform, European pricing pressures, and a harsher regulatory environment that has made it tough for drugs to get approved. --And last but not least, Elan has laid off 10% of its staff, or about 130 workers, with its R&D site in South San Francisco most heavily impacted. Researchers accounted for about half of the job losses. If we've missed any layoffs that chemists should be aware of, drop us a note or leave a...

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Abbott Takes Diet Drug Meridia (Sibutramine) Off The Market
Oct08

Abbott Takes Diet Drug Meridia (Sibutramine) Off The Market

A diet pill bit the dust today- the Food and Drug Administration has asked Abbott Laboratories to take its drug Meridia off the market in the U.S. Meridia, or sibutramine, was approved by FDA in 1997, but the company voluntarily pulled Meridia after FDA's request, and is also halting sales of the drug in Canada and Australia. FDA's request was based mostly on a large study from last fall called the SCOUT trial. The trial suggested that patients on Meridia had more cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, compared to patients taking a placebo. “Meridia’s continued availability is not justified when you compare the very modest weight loss that people achieve on this drug to their risk of heart attack or stroke,” said John Jenkins, M.D., director of the Office of New Drugs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), in an FDA press release. “Physicians are advised to stop prescribing Meridia to their patients and patients should stop taking this medication. Patients should talk to their health care provider about alternative weight loss and weight loss maintenance programs,” Jenkins said. Meridia was already pulled from the market in the UK and other European nations earlier this year. You can click here to read more about how the drug works. And last month an FDA advisory panel was split as to whether to keep Meridia on the market here in the U.S. Of 16 panelists, 8 voted to withdraw the drug, 2 voted to keep it on the market with more strict warning label language, and 6 voted to keep it on the market with label revisions and restrictions on which doctors can prescribe the drug. The loss of Meridia isn't a big blow to Abbott's stock. Prescriptions for Meridia have already dropped over the years because of safety concerns, from a high of 1.3 million prescriptions in 1998 to 250,000 in 2009, according to FDA. But the next wave of obesity drug news, should it be similarly negative, could take a bigger toll on the companies involved, which are both smaller than Abbott. Mark your calendars for October 22 and October 28- these are the goal dates for FDA to finish reviewing applications for Arena Pharmaceuticals' drug candidate Lorqess and Vivus' Qnexa. FDA panels have recommended against approving both drugs. UPDATED 3:59 PM- to reflect withdrawal of Meridia from Canada and Australia as well as...

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Abbott Snags Top Spot in India With Piramal
May21

Abbott Snags Top Spot in India With Piramal

After much speculation about suitors ranging from Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi-Aventis, Abbott is coughing up $3.3 billion--$2.12 billion in cash up front and $400 million annually over the next four years--for the formulations business of Piramal Healthcare of India. The move makes Abbott top dog in the Indian pharmaceutical market, with a market share of roughly 7%. It’s a coveted position in an environment where the majority of drug industry growth is expected to come from emerging markets. Abbott has been ramping up its established products business since creating the separate division in 2007. Last fall, the company bought Solvay’s pharmaceuticals business for $7.6 billion, which brought a portfolio of branded generics and a presence in emerging markets. The Piramal deal comes on the heels of a smaller pact with Ahmedabad, India-based Zydus Cadila, which included 24 products sold in 15 emerging markets with the option to add 40 more products. Abbott says emerging markets already represents over 20% of its total business. The companies say the Indian pharma market is expected by 2015 to more than double from the roughly $8 billion in sales this year. With the addition of Piramal, which will have branded generics sales of about $500 million in 2011, Abbott’s Indian business is expected to grow nearly 20% per year, reaching annual sales of over $2.5 billion by 2020. “Emerging markets” have become the buzz words du jour at big pharma, as improving economies mean more people can afford medicines in countries like China, India, Brazil, and Russia. According to Burrill & Co, just 13% of the pharma world was in emerging markets in 2011, whereas forecasts suggest 50% of business will be in those markets by 2020. At the JPMorgan Healthcare conference this fall, most of the big players devoted a healthy portion of their face time with investors to discussing their strategy in those areas. As Sanofi-Aventis CEO Christopher Viehbacher noted at the time, more than 50% of growth in the drug industry will come from those regions. As a result, big pharma firms have been scrambling to establish partnerships that can swiftly get them on the ground in those countries. GSK has a broad deal with South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare and a pact with India’s Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. Pfizer has established pacts with several Indian firms, including Strides Arcolab, Aurobindo, and Claris Life Sciences. Sanofi-Aventis has bought Indian vaccines maker Shantha Biotechnics, and the Czech generics firm Zentiva. Even biotechs are starting to get into the game: earlier this year, Cephalon bought Swiss generics firm Mepha. For Piramal, the sale of the formulations business to Abbott appears to be part of...

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