Covidien, Biovail to beef up sales forces

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While many sales jobs at large pharmaceutical companies continue to be shed amidst reorganizations, mergers and consolidations, Covidien and Biovail are bucking the trend and hiring new personnel.

After receiving FDA approval in March for Exalgo, a pain drug, Covidien president Timothy Wright said the company will be "significantly increasing our branded pharmaceutical sales force in 2010," according to statement. Exalgo carries a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which mandates that healthcare providers be educated on the safe use of the drug, the statement said. Covidien plans to launch Exalgo by June.

Separately, Biovail announced plans to rebuild an internal sales force in support of its CNS products, particularly an as yet unapproved form of loxapine that utilizes a new inhaler technology created by Alexza Pharmaceuticals. Biovail entered into a collaboration in February with Alexza for full commercialization rights in the US and Canada.

Biovail CEO Bill Wells called the deployment of an internal US sales force a "key component of our long-term business strategy," in a statement. Mountain View, CA-based Alexza filed an NDA for Staccato loxapine with the FDA in December of 2009. Depending on the breadth of FDA approval, Biovail may hire as many as 250 reps, said Nelson Isabel, VP, investor relations and corporate communications at Biovail.

Last May, GlaxoSmithKline divested ownership of Wellbutrin XL to Biovail, the manufacturer of the drug; Wellbutrin XL brought in $57.4 million during 4Q 2009, according to company reports. Biovail dissolved its US-based sales organization in late 2006, which eliminated 200 positions.
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