Novartis announces new changes to US pharma biz

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Following a full-scale realignment of its commercial model in 2009, Novartis will make new adjustments to its US pharmaceutical operations, including a change at the top: Ludwig Hantson, CEO and head of North American pharmaceuticals, will exit the company, a Novartis spokeswoman confirmed.     

A replacement for Hantson is expected to be announced "shortly," according to the spokeswoman. Hantson held the CEO job for almost exactly two years.  

Novartis will create four new business units focused around the following areas: primary care; multiple sclerosis; psychiatry/neuroscience; and respiratory/transplant/infectious disease. That decision was based on the company's "evolving portfolio of products, including an increasing presence in specialty areas," the spokeswoman said.

The company will also consolidate its five regional offices in primary care sales and marketing to four, and those four offices will be overseen by the new primary care business unit. Brian Goff, previously VP and head of primary care marketing, will lead the group, according to an internal company email published by Ed Silverman on the In Vivo blog. The internal email, attributed to David Epstein, Novartis' head of global pharmaceuticals, was also posted anonymously on a Novartis company board at Cafe Pharma.

The new organizational changes will reduce the number of full-time jobs by 383, mostly in headquarters-based functions. "There is a minimal impact on the commercial sales organization," the spokeswoman said. "Roughly 35 percent of of the reductions have been achieved by not filling vacant positions."  According to the email published on the In Vivo blog, around 250 people will lose their jobs.   

At the same time, Novartis' multiple sclerosis sales force will be expanded in "anticipation of a positive accelerated FDA review" of Gilenia (fingolimod), the spokeswoman said, which has been shown to reduce relapse rates in patients.
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