Novartis faces new challenges as top executives leave
- Seven top Novartis executives have either left or retired within the last five months, adding to the challenges facing the Swiss drugmaker, Reuters reports.
- The departures are headlined by the exit of David Epstein, who was head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, after the company announced the division would be split into two separate units.
- Novartis stock has fallen steadily over the past year, as its eye-care unit Alcon has struggled. Generic competition threatens several mainstay drugs, while the launch of the much-anticipated heart failure drug Entresto has disappointed.
Epstein had led Novartis’ drugs division for six years, overseeing the launches of Glivec and Gilenya, as well as the newer Entresto. While his departure is the most notable, Novartis has been hit by a number of other significant departures.
Ameet Nathwani, global head of medical affairs, left for Sanofi in March. Alcon division chief Jeff George left in January as the unit’s performance faltered. Somewhat similarly, U.S. country head Christi Shaw departed earlier this month amid Entresto’s slow U.S. launch.
Other departures include Chief Ethics Officer Eric Cornut, Mark Fishman, the director of the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, and William Sellars, head of oncology research, as reported by Reuters. Fishman and Sellars both retired.
The split of Novartis Pharmaceuticals reflects the company’s efforts to focus more on oncology, already boosted by the $16 billion asset swap with GlaxoSmithKline last year. In that transaction, Novartis exchanged its vaccines business for GSK’s cancer drugs Votrient, and Taflinar/Mekinis, along with other assets.
Generic competition threatens Novartis’ top-selling blood cancer drug Gleevec, which pulled $4.65 billion in revenues last year.
Novartis has had some good news recently, however, as a phase 3 trial of its breast cancer drug ribociclib was stopped early due to positive results. Additionally, several leading U.S. cardiology groups updated practice guidelines, giving Entresto a class 1 recommendation.