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BMS cuts salesforce on revised Abilify deal

Nearly 500 jobs to go as US rights to schizophrenia blockbuster return to Otsuka

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) building

Bristol-Myers Squibb is cutting around 480 jobs in its salesforce after handing US marketing rights to schizophrenia blockbuster Abilify back to Otsuka Pharmaceuticals.

Abilify (aripiprazole) was originally developed by Otsuka, which has licensed co-marketing and distribution rights to BMS, but the product has started to see its sales slide in the face of generic competition from other big-selling antipsychotics that have lost patent protection.

All the job losses will come from Abilify's commercial team, which is centred mainly at the company's facility in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

The relationship with Otsuka had been due to expire in April 2015, just after the predicted expiry of Abilify's patent protection in the US, and BMS has seen its contractual share of revenue start to fall, from 53.5 per cent in 2011 to 51.5 per cent this year, with a further reduction due in 2013. 

Under the revised agreement, BMS will no longer market and promote Abilify from January 1, 2013, but will continue to carry out its other responsibilities, including finish manufacturing for sale to third-party customers by BMS or Otsuka.

Third-quarter sales of Abilify came in at $676m, down 2 per cent on the same period of 2011, adding to the pain felt by plummeting sales of the company's blood thinner Plavix (clopidogrel), which have been in free fall since the drug lost US patent protection in May.

Meanwhile, the Abilify franchise took a hit in July when approval of a once-monthly version was delayed in the US after the FDA uncovered quality deficiencies at a third-party supplier of sterile water used in the drug's manufacture. 

The finding prevented approval and wiped out the drug's lead over a rival aripiprazole depot product in development at Alkermes.

A BMS spokesman told the Associated Press that the salesforce reduction will allow the company to "simplify operations, improve its efficiency while also better positioning itself to focus on important work in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hepatitis and immunoscience".

7th November 2012

From: Sales

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