Absorbing Kos, Abbott slashes sales force

Abbott Laboratories plans to eliminate “several hundred” primary care sales representative jobs across the US. The cuts are related to the drugmaker’s $3.7 billion acquisition of Kos Pharmaceuticals last year, according to Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel. “We’ve been working to integrate the Kos sales force with Abbott’s primary care sales force,” Stoffel told MM&M. “We used an analysis based on factors like historical performance, product expertise and geography to create a new combined pharmaceutical primary care sales organization that will best serve our customers and eliminate duplications.” Sales reps affected by the cuts began being informed last week, according to Stoffel. Abbott also plans to eliminate 200 scientist jobs at its Lake County, IL, facilities as part of its decision to phase out its development of drugs for metabolic diseases. “In early February, we announced internally, that we would reshape our pharmaceutical discovery strategy,” Stoffel said. “We’re going to be focusing on fewer specific diseases, which we feel will better position Abbott to discover and advance medications.” Under its new strategy, Abbott plans to focus its research on four therapeutic areas including immunology, infectious diseases, neuroscience and pain, and oncology. Abbott agreed to buy specialty firm Kos for $3.7 billion in November, a move that complements its cardiovascular franchise and boosts its pipeline. For Abbott, which markets cholesterol drug TriCor, the acquisition will expand its presence in the lipid management market. Kos’ two lead products are Niaspan, which raises good cholesterol levels, and Advicor, a Niaspan/lovastatin combination product which treats patients with multiple lipid disorders. Kos is also developing a combination of Niaspan with simvastatin, a generic version of Merck’s Zocor, called Simcor, in late-stage development. Abbott’s presence in the asthma and diabetes markets also benefits from the deal. Kos markets an asthma product, Azmacort, and its Flutiform is in Phase III trials for asthma in adults and adolescents, with SkyePharma taking the drug through trials. Kos is developing an inhaled insulin product, complementing Abbott’s glucose monitoring and diabetes nutritionals businesses. Abbott lost patent protection on antibiotic Biaxin in 2005, and other expirations loom for antibiotics and epilepsy treatments in its portfolio.