Novartis to cut 1,260 jobs from sales and marketing

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Novartis today said it plans to eliminate 1,260 jobs from its US sales and marketing unit and replace its head of pharmaceuticals after announcing poor third-quarter earnings results.

Joe Jimenez, who joined Novartis in April from Blackstone as head of the consumer healthcare unit, will step in to run the company's pharmaceuticals unit. Jimenez will trade places with Thomas Ebelin, who moves Novartis' smaller consumer unit responsible for  OTC, animal medications and contact lenses.

One of Jimenez's first orders of business will be to oversee Novartis' planned sales and marketing job cuts that aim to save the Swiss drugmaker an estimated $230 million.

Novartis said 240 of the eliminated sales and marketing jobs will come from its US headquarters, another 510 positions from its sales force and an additional 510 from contract sales. InVentiv Health announced today that Novartis plans to terminate its sales contract with the firm in the fourth quarter.

The moves follow a year of tough losses on a number of key Novartis products. Zelnorm sales fell 80% after the company was forced to pull the irritable bowel treatment from the market in March due to safety concerns.

Meanwhile, generic competition caught up to other top-se llers including Lamisil, Lotrel and Famivir, and top prospect, type 2 diabetes drug Galvus, was delayed at the FDA.
 
During the September 2006 UBS Global Life Sciences Conference, Novartis' chief marketing officer Kurt Graves was optimistic about the potential for Galvus as the company was rumored to be recruiting sales reps in advance of the drug's approval. But FDA regulators burst Novartis' bubble in February when they issued the drugmaker an approvable letter requesting more data on the drug.
 
By June, Graves, like the company's hopes for Galvus, had also disappeared. He joined Cambridge, MA, biotech Vertex Pharmaceuticals as EVP, chief commercial officer.

Earlier this week Sepracor announced the hiring of former Novartis cardiovascular marketers Mark Iwicki as EVP and chief commercial officer and Jay Smith as SVP of sales.

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