Sanofi-Aventis laid off 400 reps last Monday, as part of a strategy to focus on key therapeutic areas moving forward. Total company sales forces in the US number 5,700 as a result of the cuts.
Emmy Tsui, a Sanofi spokesperson, said key therapeutic areas for the company include "diabetes, oncology, atrial fibrillation, and other platforms for sustainable growth." Tsui added that Sanofi will "continue to evaluate the resources we have dedicated to our US operations," but would not comment directly on plans for future changes to US sales forces.
In a letter to Sanofi employees published on BNET, Jerry Durso, Sanofi VP and head of US specialized therapeutics, said the cuts were related to a "reduced presence in the CNS market," which includes Ambien CR and Aplenzin, an outsourcing of reps on bone drug Actonel, and a reduced sales force behind Nasacort AQ. Sales of Nasacort AQ were $239 million in 2009, around $50 million higher than Sanofi's next-generation allergy drug Xyzal, according to SDI figures. Nasacort AQ, however, is expected to face generic competition as early as summer of 2011.
Marketing rights for Actonel, a treatment for osteoporosis, were handed off to Warner Chilcott, Sanofi's collaborator on the drug. As part of the deal, Warner Chilcott will offer an undisclosed number of jobs to Sanofi reps previously working on the brand. Actonel sales declined to $264 million in 2009, despite a 39% price hike between 2006 and 2010, an increase Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) called "egregious" during a Senate committee meeting in March.
In keeping with the decision to focus on diabetes as one key area for growth, Sanofi announced yesterday that it had acquired exclusive worldwide licensing rights for Pancreate, a diabetes type 1 and 2 treatment developed by CureDM, a Delaware-based biopharma. Pancreate (proisletide acetate) is thought to stimulate the production of insulin-producing islets in the pancreas, and is expected to enter stage 1 clinical trials later this year. The deal includes a potential $335 million in milestone payments to CureDM, should the drug successfully enter the market, according to a company statement.