Bayer to Cut 4,500 Jobs: Biotech's Latest Tribulations

by: The Burrill Report

Bayer (OTCPK:BAYRY) said it will eliminate 4,500 jobs as part of a restructuring that emphasizes the development of new products for the healthcare and agricultural markets and expands the company’s activities in emerging markets, where it expects to create some 2,500 jobs. The company said the cuts are in response to pressure on sales and earnings caused by competition from generic products, rising development costs, and the effects of health care reforms. The cuts are part of an effort to redirect resources, improve efficiencies, and cut costs. Bayer expects to save about $1.1 billion (€800 million) starting in 2013. About half of this amount is to be reinvested. By the end of 2012 the company is likely to take one-time charges in the region of $1.4 billion (€1 billion).

Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) said it will eliminate and transfer 6,300 jobs as part of a plan to save $2.4 billion (CHF2.4 billion). Roche said it will cut 4,800 positions with the largest cuts coming in sales and marketing. Approximately 800 jobs will be transferred to other Roche sites and 700 positions outsourced to third parties. The combination of planned job reductions and transfers affect 6,300 positions overall. The company said the measures were necessary to ensure sustained success of the company. Roche said it will also discontinue its RNA interference research and end its alliance with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY). [See story]

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) said they have discontinued the late-stage clinical trial of their experimental antiplatelet drug apixaban in patients with recent Acute Coronary Syndrome on the recommendation of an independent data monitoring committee because of bleeding among patients randomized to apixaban. This increase in bleeding was not offset by clinically meaningful reductions in ischemic events. Enrollment will be stopped and patients will be taken off of the study drug. The lead investigators will complete a full evaluation of the available data set and the results will be made public. The companies are moving forward with apixaban in other indications. “Our recommendation to discontinue [the study] concerns only the population of high-risk ACS patients receiving anti-platelet therapy enrolled in [the study],” said Robert Harrington, Duke Clinical Research Institute, and co-chair of the study steering committee.

Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals said it will voluntarily withdraw its Darvon, Darvon-N, and Darvocet-N products from the U.S. market in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This withdrawal is part of a market-wide withdrawal applying to all propoxyphene-containing products, affecting branded and generic pharmaceutical companies and a number of products on the market. Propoxyphene is a mild opiate used for the treatment of mild-to-moderate pain and has been on the U.S. market for the last 50 years. In January 2009, a meeting of the FDA Anesthetic and Life Support Drugs Advisory Committee and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee was convened to review the efficacy and safety of propoxyphene-containing products. As a result of the availability and ongoing analysis of drug safety surveillance data and developing clinical information about the effects of propoxyphene on cardiac conduction, the FDA has determined that the benefits of propoxyphene-containing products no longer outweigh the potential risks.

Resverlogix (OTCPK:RVXCF) experimental cholesterol drug failed in a mid-stage clinical trial triggering a 45 percent drop in the company’s stock, Reuters reported. The drug, RVX-208, failed to meet the trial’s goal of increasing production of protein associated with good cholesterol and clearing plaque from arteries. RVX-208 seeks to increase the amount of so-called good or HDL cholesterol by increasing production of the protein ApoA-1. The drug didn't cause a significant difference in apoA-1 levels compared to a placebo, but it did cause a statistically significant increase in blood levels of HDL. “The study may not have had enough patients to answer its primary question about ApoA-1,” lead author of the trial, Stephen Nicholls, said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Takeda Pharmaceuticals (OTCPK:TKPHF) said they are recalling batches of their blood cancer drug Velcade in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan as a precaution following reports of impurities, Bloomberg reported. The companies said there were five reports of visual particulates after product reconstitution in samples from two batches. A spokesman for Takeda told Bloomberg that the manufacturing problem linked with the particulates is being fixed. Velcade is sold by Takeda’s subsidiary Millennium in the United States and by Johnson & Johnson elsewhere.