New pharma CEOs to face payer, pricing challenges

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Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez will step down in early 2018. 

The turnover among pharmaceutical CEOs continues.

Most recently Teva Pharmaceutical Industries named Kåre Schultz as its new CEO and Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez said he would be replaced by the drugmaker's current global head of drug development.

During Jimenez's tenure, Novartis sold off its over-the-counter, animal health, and vaccines businesses and instead focused on developing and marketing branded drugs.

See also: On drug pricing, Acorda CEO is optimistic

One differentiator between Jimenez and his replacement is that Dr. Vasant Narasimham studied medicine at Harvard Medical School before making his way into pharmaceuticals.

That's a far cry from the business-heavy background of Jimenez, who previously held leadership roles at what was then the H.J. Heinz Company. However, of the 10 largest drugmakers by global sales, there is little clinical experience at the CEO level, with the exception being Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt, who is a physician by training. The majority of these CEOs have finance and marketing backgrounds.

Teva, facing both manufacturing and commercial challenges, brought on a leader recognized as a turnaround specialist. Schultz is the former president and CEO of Lundbeck and a former chief operating officer for Novo Nordisk.

“His proven strategic, financial and operational capabilities and his strong commitment to growth will enhance value for all stakeholders and position Teva for long-term success,” Dr. Sol Barer, Teva's chairman, said, in a September 11 statement.

See also: Frazier's call earns him praise, rare for a pharma CEO

Narasimhan and Schultz will be the newest in the new crop of pharma CEOs (including GlaxoSmithKline's Emma Walmsley and Eli Lilly's David Ricks) tasked with addressing an increasingly tough payer environment as well as ongoing criticism of the industry's drug-pricing practices.

One question to ask: Why aren't there more pharma CEOs with market access know-how? “I am surprised how few companies have attracted [this] expertise in their senior management ranks and in their boards,” Ed Schoonveld, managing principal for ZS Associates, a pharmaceutical consulting firm, said in an email. “Given the speed of change in our environment, it seems very risky to not have this critical discipline represented at the decision making levels.”

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