Heart Stopping News For Sanofi & Its Sales Reps

Heart Stopping News For Sanofi & Its Sales Reps

November 16th, 2011 // 2:14 pm @

In the latest blow to Sanofi, the final results of a study confirm that its Multaq heart med increases rates of heart failure, stroke and death from cardiovascular causes in patients with permanent atrial fibrillation who were at risk for major vascular events. Known as the Pallas trial, the study had been stopped last July after the increased risks were determined (see here).

“We have had a healthy suspicion of anti-arrhythmic drugs for many years, but we had thought this drug didn’t have the same risks,” lead researcher Stuart Connolly of the Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, tells Bloomberg News. “We are now getting the message that this drug has the potential to harm as well. It seems this drug acts very differently depending on which type of patient receives it.”

The study, which was funded by Sanofi and published in The New England Journal of Medicine (read here), reported 21 deaths from cardiovascular causes among patients given Multaq, compared with 10 among those were given a placebo. The findings, which are likely to relegate Multaq to second-tier status among such anti-arrhythmic meds, come as the FDA proceeds with a safety review (look here).

While not a surprise, the outcome underscores the extent to which Multaq has become a disappointment. The drug was once expected to generate $1 billion in annual sales but generated about $235 million last year, a figure that is likely to drop after the European Medicines Agency recently decided to restrict usage (back story).

The formal disclosure of the study is also expected to determine the number of layoffs in the cardiovascular sales force, a move that was announced to employees earlier this month as part of a $2.9 billion cost-cutting effort that involves shifting various R&D operations and scaling back sales and marketing teams.

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