J&J’s Ortho unit to trim Procrit sales force

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Johnson & Johnson is trimming its sales force for anemia drug Procrit, a top-seller that has lost market share recently due to increased competition from Amgen’s Aranesp. Ortho Biotech Products, the J&J unit that markets Procrit, expects fewer than 105 job losses as a result of the cutbacks, primarily in the Procrit sales force but also in other areas, a spokesperson for Ortho told The Wall Street Journal. J&J’s Ortho unit, based in Bridgewater, NJ, has 1,683 employees in total but does not disclose the size of its sales force for competitive reasons. Ortho expects to reassign an unspecified number of Procrit-related employees to other positions within the firm or other J&J units. Affected employees in various locations around the US were notified last week. The Ortho spokesperson told The Journal the job cuts were intended to increase its “competitive position.” Procrit’s sales have been weakened by increased competition from Amgen’s Aranesp, particularly in the market to treat anemia in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Combined sales of J&J’s Procrit and a similar treatment marketed in Europe, Eprex, fell 9.9% to $3.4 billion in 2004, according to J&J’s 2004 annual report. Exact sales figures for 2005 haven’t yet been reported, but J&J executives said last month that Procrit’s sales declined 7% in the fourth quarter of last year. Procrit’s market share fell to 47% in the fourth quarter from 55% a year earlier, J&J said. Aranesp sales meanwhile rose 32% to about $3.3 billion in 2005.
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