Johnson & Johnson announced plans to cut 400 marketing and sales jobs to make up for lagging sales of its anemia drug Procrit. The cuts will be limited to the company's two biologics groups—Centocor and Ortho Biotech. About 150 employees will be let go from Ortho, and the division will move from its New Jersey headquarters to Centocor's offices in Horsham, PA.
Procrit came under fire last year when former J&J salespeople said the company had encouraged them to use kickbacks and other tactics to push physicians to prescribe the drug. (Their lawsuit against the company was dismissed in January.) The product has also faced new warning labels, Congressional investigations, and the claim by Representatives Pete Stark (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA) that erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs) such as Procrit do not enhance quality of life.
On Monday, Chris Molineaux, spokesperson for J&J, told Pharm Exec that the ESA market has seen a fair amount of contraction in the past year; FDA is currently reviewing the label for the future use of Procrit, sparking concern of further softening of the market.
"It's important to note that this is not only about the contraction of the market, because Centocor has a strong growth driver with Remicade," Molineaux said. "The drug is still delivering strong performance, and the company has two launches anticipated in the next year."
J&J also made it clear that the Ortho Biotech announcement is a consolidation of commercial operations, not a merger. "This is largely because merger refers to a top-to-bottom bringing together of two organizations," Molineaux said. "In this case, there will continue to be separate sales forces for Ortho Biotech and Centocor."
Kim Taylor—currently president of Ortho Biotech—will head the new organization.
Johnson & Johnson would not comment about drugs in the pipeline before Phase IIb, but Molineaux said that Procrit still has a very strong core business, and that the company will continue to support it. Orthro Biotech also manufactures the oncology drug Doxil and has a co-promotion agreement in the United States for Velcaid.