Eli Lilly to Begin Axing Hundreds of Sales Jobs Early 2017

Eli Lilly to Begin Axing Hundreds of Sales Jobs Early 2017 December 5, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

INDIANAPOLIS – Eli Lilly ’s expected job cuts following the failure of its Alzheimer’s treatment are expected to begin in January, the Indianapolis Star reported this weekend, citing company officials.

Cuts are expected to start with the sales staff of its U.S. Bio-Medicines business, the division that would have handled sales for the Alzheimer’s drug solanezumab had it been successful. It’s not only the failure of solanezumab that is playing into Eli Lilly’s decision. In a statement to the Star, Eli Lilly said the sales force reduction was also affected by the “expectation of upcoming patent expirations.” Those drugs include Cialis, for erectile dysfunction, the blood thinner Effient and Strattera, a drug for attention deficit disorder.

“… we informed employees earlier this week that we would be reducing the size of our U.S. Bio-Medicines sales force in the first quarter of 2017 to better meet our future business needs," Lilly said in a statement, according to the Star’s report.

It is unknown how many sales staff members will be affected by Eli Lilly’s cuts. The company is not disclosing the number of layoffs, Mark Taylor, an Eli Lilly spokesperson told the Indianapolis Business Journal. Although no numbers were disclosed, the Journal said company insiders predict the layoffs will be in the hundreds.

Taylor told the Journal that terminated employees will be given a three-month relocation period to seek other jobs within the company.

"If an employee does not find another job by the end of March, their employment with Lilly would end and they would receive a severance,” Taylor told the Journal.

With the failure of solanezumab, Eli Lilly, like so many other companies, was unable to grasp the brass ring of Alzheimer’s treatment. The Phase III failure marked the second time solanezumab failed in a late-stage Alzheimer’s trial. The last time was in 2012, but for this go-round, Eli Lilly opted to use the drug to focus on milder-forms of Alzheimer’s and using a “delayed start” method. However, Phase III data showed that solanezumab failed to show a statistical slowing in cognitive decline compared to placebo.

The failure of solanezumab was a big blow to experimental treatments aimed at amyloid plaque, which many have believed is the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. This is not the last amyloid treatment out there. Biogen is also developing its own amyloid plaque targeting drug, aducanumab. Although similar to solanezumab, Biogen’s aducanumab is different, with some analysts believing it to be superior to the Eli Lilly medication. Biogen is currently enrolling a Phase III trial for aducanumab.

Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia, affects 15 million people worldwide, a number that is expected to grow to 75 million by 2030 due, in part, to the lack of effective treatments. In total, there are about 50 million people suffering from some form of dementia worldwide. There are currently no drugs that target the cause of Alzheimer’s the most common form of dementia. There are several drugs on the market that help manage Alzheimer’s, but none treat the primary cause, including Eisai Co. ’s Aracept.

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