Under Construction - Pharmaceutical Executive


Under Construction

Pharmaceutical Executive

"I was in a suit," says Adams, "and there's Mike Jaharis in his slippers, sitting in his chair. He immediately started talking about family and values, and we talked for four hours. The week after, I was offered the job. Within two weeks I'd gone from being happy at Novartis to resigning."

Why leave? As Adams tells it, a big part of his decision was the opportunity to help form the culture of a company, backed by people who felt as strongly about that process as he does. "Dan Bell and Mike have tremendous integrity and honesty," says Adams. "What they talk about is values. You're talking about a family-oriented culture, where you can get the best out of people because you treat them like ingredients of success." It's a description you'll hear from virtually any member of senior management at the company.

Adams joined Kos as COO. One year later, Bell stepped down as CEO, and Adams took the reins. The year was a turning point not just for Adams, but for the company. In 2002:

  • The company launched its second product, Advicor, which combines the statin lovastatin and Niaspan in a single pill. The product acknowledged an obvious truth about Niaspan—that most patients who received it also received a statin—and it put control of multiple aspects of dyslipidemia into a single pill. Jaharis, a bit of a crusader, takes Advicor himself and boasts of his lipids to visitors: a healthy HDL of 69 and an LDL of (this isn't a misprint) 17.
  • It boosted its sales force to 400 from 250 by collaborating with the contract sales organization Innovex (a year later it signed an agreement with Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America to increase the effective sales force by 1,250, to a total of 1,700).
  • " It formed an alliance with Merck KGaA to market Niaspan and Advicor worldwide, except in Japan and North America.
  • It made its first quarterly operating profit and net income.

Just as important, the company took steps to strengthen its management structure. To head commercial operations, Adams recruited King of Solvay, with whom he'd worked at SmithKline-Beecham. As executive vice-president for research and development, Adams brought in Ralf Rosskamp, who previously had headed global clinical research in endocrinology, metabolism, rheumatology, and bone at Aventis—a role in which, in an alliance with Pfizer, he planned the Phase III trials of the inhaled insulin product Exubera. Kiritsy was promoted internally to his current role. The company also added a vice president of business development and a chief counsel.

"We've tried to get the balance right between growing our own and bringing in fresh thinking," says Adams. "To me, part of growing an organization is not total reliance on the way things have been done in the past, but getting fresh thinking and fresh experiences."

Building a Pipeline

With its jump on the HDL market, Kos is in an enviable spot. Other HDL products are coming, notably the products Pfizer acquired by buying Esperion. But Adams says, "We have the playing field to ourselves for the next three or four years."

There's an if attached to that prediction. Barr Laboratories is currently challenging the Niaspan patent, and though Adams says Kos feels secure, the case is expected to come to trial in 2005 or later. A loss would be a serious setback. In the meantime, several new products are in late-stage development.

KS 01-018 treats peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which causes leg pain. "It's very prevalent in smokers," explains Rosskamp. "The American Diabetes Association issued guidelines that every diabetic patient over age 50 should be screened for PAD." Kos estimates the patient population at 8 to 12 million, the market at $1 billion, and potential peak sales at $400 million or more


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