PHARMACY

Novartis’ Vasella to focus on being chairman, bows out from CEO role

BY Alaric DeArment

BASEL, Switzerland Daniel Vasella will step down as CEO of Novartis to focus on his position as chairman, with pharmaceutical division head Joe Jimenez taking his place, the Swiss drug maker announced Tuesday.

The leadership change comes amid news that the company had net sales of $44.3 billion in 2009, a 7% rise over the year before, along with an 8% rise in profits, to $10.3 billion. Among individual divisions, generics arm Sandoz saw a rise by 5%, when factoring in currency exchange rates, along with 12% for pharmaceuticals, 39% for vaccines and diagnostics –– driven by sales of the H1N1 vaccine –– and 5% for consumer health.

“Novartis delivered an excellent performance in 2009, driven by strong underlying growth across our entire healthcare portfolio,” Vasella said.

That includes more than 30 new product approvals in the United States, Europe and Japan, including the launch of the schizophrenia treatment Fanapt (iloperidone) and Japanese approvals of the diabetes treatment Equa (vildagliptin), the hypertension drug Exforge (valsartan and amlodipine) and the kidney cancer drug Afinitor (everolimus).

All of the divisions expect to grow in 2010 except for vaccines and diagnostics, which expects lower sales than in 2009 despite expected approval of the meningococcal meningitis vaccine Menveo. The company also expects to acquire a 77% stake in the eye-care company Alcon from Nestle and subsequently acquire the remaining 23%.

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Report; N.Y. seeks to prohibit doctors from accepting gifts from drug companies

BY Alaric DeArment

ALBANY, N.Y. New York Gov. David Paterson hopes to put an end to gifts from drug companies to doctors, according to published reports.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Paterson proposed legislation that would prohibit drug makers from giving doctors such gifts as pens and free meals to persuade them to prescribe their drugs. Drug companies that violated the ban would be fined between $15,000 and $250,000, while healthcare professionals would be fined $5,000 to $10,000. Nine states so far have laws on the books that prohibit the practice.

According to the AP article, patient-advocacy organizations such as AARP are supporting the legislation, while the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents the branded drug industry, opposes it.

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Acorda appoints EVP commercial development

BY Alaric DeArment

HAWTHORNE, N.Y. The founder of a consulting firm has joined the executive board of Acorda Therapeutics, the drug maker announced Monday.

Lauren Sabella will work as Acorda’s EVP commercial development, reporting to president and CEO Ron Cohen and assuming responsibility for Acorda’s commercial operations such as marketing, sales and managed markets.

Before working for Acorda, Sabella was founder and principal of Tugboat Consulting Group, which assisted companies in commercialization. She also worked as VP commercial development for Altus Pharmaceuticals and served in various positions at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaeuticals for 18 years.

“I’m delighted to welcome Lauren Sabella to Acorda’s management team,” Cohen said. “Lauren has an impressive record of achievement in the pharmaceutical industry, including responsibility for launching and managing several high-performing products.”

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