Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ed Silverman-Pharmalot Blog--Novartis Scrambles To Woo Vets Angry Over Production Problems

Novartis Scrambles To Woo Vets Angry Over Production Problems

Now that Novartis has shrunk operations at its troubled Lincoln, Nebraska, plant, the drugmaker is scrambling to win back a key set of customers – veterinarians. And to do so, Novartis is cutting the price of its Sentinel tablets for flea and heartworm prevention for dogs – one of just three products that are now being made at the facility – nearly in half from 2011 levels.
The idea, of course, is to convince vets to restock its medicine after a 16-month hiatus. Production, you recall, was halted early last year after the FDA found numerous serious and embarrassing manufacturing gaffes at the plant, including repeated failures to investigate customer complaints of foreign tablets found in packaged medicines and filing required field reports with the agency (see a recent FDA report here).
During the ensuing months, Novartis shuffled management of its over-the-counter unit (look here) and proclaimed a new emphasis on quality production (read this). The plant recently resumed activities, although 300 jobs were eliminated and only two other medicines are now being made there – the Excedrin pain reliever and the Theraflu cough-and-cold treatment (read here).  
The difficulties caused a 19 percent drop in sales of its consumer health division last year, which includes both OTC and animal health medicines and accounted for 16 percent of companywide sales. And last August, the drugmaker begged vets to stick with its meds once production resumed (back story). This explains the bid to woo veterinarians who, unlike physicians who treat humans, dispense and also sell medications. Besides the price cut, Novartis (NVS) is offering an added discount for purchases this month.
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