Please! – Novartis Is Begging Veterinarians to Stay With Animal Meds

Please! – Novartis Is Begging Veterinarians to Stay With Animal Meds

August 31st, 2012 // 3:38 pm @

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For months, Novartis has struggled to resolve numerous quality control problems at various manufacturing plants that have caused shortages of many popular over-the-counter medicines, such as Excedrin and Bufferin (back story). But an equally vexing issue continues to plague its Animal Health division, since one of the troubled plants makes several widely used treatments that veterinarians purchase to market to pet owners.

The drugmaker has become so worried, however, that a letter was sent earlier this week to vets in hopes of convincing them that Novartis is “working diligently” to resume production, according to VIN News Service. In his letter, sales vp Andy Ferrigno pleads with vets to resume purchases once distribution is restored, although he did not disclose specific dates for when this may occur.

“Your clinic will be approached in the coming months by our competitors, offering you load-in deals and terms that may draw your interest,” he wrote, according to VIN. “While we understand your need to do what is right for your business, patients and clients, we hope you will seriously consider saving us a spot on your shelves. We politely ask that you give your Novartis sales representatives a chance to earn back your business.”

Among the animal meds that are in short supply are the popular Interceptor and Sentinel treatments for heartworm; the Clomicalm medication for separation anxiety; and the arthritis pain medication Deramaxx. The products have been on back order ever since Novartis closed the plant last December, which helped spark a companywide review of manufacturing and an executive shake-up (see here).

Novartis is growing concerned about vets because the Animal Health unit last year generated $1.3 billion in sales, which amounted to 28 percent of total revenue in the Consumer Health division (see page 52 here). The remainder of sales generated by that division, which overall notched $4.6 billion in sales in 2011 or 7 percent of companywide revenue, comes from over-the-counter products.

Some vets are fed up, though. John Daugherty, who has a practice in Poland, Ohio, has 20 flea and tick products and 10 heartworm preventatives he can choose from and, even though he once used Interceptor and Sentinel exclusively, he will not return to Novartis brands anytime soon. “I had 1,500 patients on Interceptor,” he tells VIN. “We can’t go a whole year without heartworm preventative. At this point, we have almost all of our clients switched over to something else. I’m not going to tell them next year that they now need to switch back.”

Other vets remain angry that Novartis is unable to say when production will resume. “This really isn’t an update (but) more than a PR (public relations) letter,” wrote Rich Selkowitz, a practitioner in Rockaway, New Yor, on the VIN forum for vets. “I am sick of giving clients a date on the return of your products based upon information given by drug reps, and then having to inform them that, nope, we don’t have it yet.”

Compounding matters, some Novartis animal meds are available from online pharmacies. For instance, Doctors Foster & Smith offers Interceptor and Sentinel tabs (see here and here). This is also causing anger because Novartis insists its products are sold only directly to vets, suggesting older stock was purchased earlier from vets, a gray market practice that the drugmaker discourages but cannot prevent.

In an update on its web site this week, the drugmaker appeared helpless. “Since Novartis Animal Health does not sell directly to online retailers, we are not able to tell you where retailers purchase their product supply. Novartis supports the veterinary-client relationship and only sells its products directly to licensed veterinarians,” the drugmaker wrote (read this). Once again, though, Novartis did not offer specific information about when production would resume. Looks like the manufacturing issues will take a big bite out of sales this year.


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