Sanofi-Aventis to cut 1,400 sales reps

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Sanofi-Aventis will winnow its US sales forces down by 1,400, the company announced on Friday. The move follows layoffs in April of around 400 reps, and brings the total sales force headcount down to roughly 4,000. The Paris-based company employed approximately 6,500 US-based reps just one year ago.

The restructuring will reduce Sanofi's US pharmaceutical operations by 1,700 positions in total – 1,400 reps and 300 home office employees, according to Jack Cox, a Sanofi spokesperson – and includes a shift in resources from “late life-cycle, value-driver products” to growth areas like oncology and diabetes, said Cox, adding that Actonel, Aplenzin, Avapro, Avalide and Plavix are among the products slated to lose promotional resources. “We believe making these changes now will make us the right size for our product portfolio and give us a strong organizational structure to meet the challenges we anticipate during the next couple of years,” said Cox in an email.

In addition to oncology and diabetes, Sanofi will also focus on atrial fibrillation – specifically, Multaq – and OTC consumer healthcare products sold by Chattem, a US-based subsidiary, according to Cox. In March, Sanofi completed its $1.9 billion acquisition of Tennessee-based Chattem, makers of Gold Bond, Icy Hot, Dexatrim and Unisom, among other products, and hopes to use Chattem's marketing and distribution channels as a conduit for future OTC conversions, beginning with Allegra, according to a company statement in March.

Sanofi is currently attempting a hostile takeover of Genzyme Corp., and bid $18.5 billion for the Massachusetts-based biotech in late August. Genzyme has urged shareholders to reject that offer.

In other news, Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, was awarded a three-year, $56.94 million contract by the US Department of Health And Human Services on Friday, for maintaining the resources needed to manufacture pandemic flu vaccines at full capacity, in the event that a vaccine is needed, according to a release.

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