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Sanofi Reorganizing Research, Trimming Sales Force

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - French drugmaker Sanofi SA said Wednesday that it's reorganizing research operations in the U.S. and planning another round of sales force reductions.

The sales job cuts, which will start with an offer of voluntary buyouts, are due to generic competition eroding sales of some existing drugs or experimental ones not panning out in testing as hoped.

The research reorganization is part of CEO Chris Viehbacher's long-term plan to restructure early drug testing and later-stage development around hubs in different countries.

Sanofi, the maker of blockbuster blood thinner Plavix, said in a statement that it will be setting up a hub for early-stage drug research in the Boston area, where it already has sizeable operations. That includes the biotech drugmaker Genzyme that Sanofi bought last year. Sanofi currently has about 5,000 employees in Massachusetts, the vast majority of them at Genzyme, which specializes in drugs for rare diseases.

Some research work will be shifted to the new Boston hub from Bridgewater, N.J., the company's headquarters for North America operations. Later-stage research will be based in Bridgewater, where the Paris-based company has four different buildings. One of those, currently used for research and development, now is slated to be closed in the fourth quarter of next year.

Sanofi has about 3,000 employees in New Jersey, mostly in Bridgewater.

The company also will add a new operation in Bridgewater, a global services division for North America. That will provide consolidated support functions such as finance, purchasing, legal and communications for Sanofi's five businesses in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Sanofi said it plans a second round of cuts to its U.S. sales force, focused on salespeople who promote cardiovascular and cancer drugs to doctors. Plavix, the world's second-best-selling drug, gets generic competition here next May. Sanofi jointly markets Plavix with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

In addition, sales of some other heart or cancer drugs either are declining due to generic competition or have not been selling as well as expected.

Sanofi plans to offer buyouts to those salespeople initially, then will try to shift others into positions that are currently vacant.

In morning trading, Sanofi's U.S.-listed shares added 27 cents to $34.28.


Posted: November 2011