Novartis counts cost of exit from drugs vaccine business     

Novartis counts cost of exit from drugs vaccine business     
Novartis premises in Ringaskiddy

Novartis lowered its 2020 sales outlook after a second-quarter fall as the Swiss drugmaker counts the cost of exiting the vaccine market six years ago.

Novartis employs about 1,200 people in Ireland but said late last year it plans to cut 320 jobs at part of its Ringaskiddy facility in Cork over two years.  

Sales of the cancer therapy Lutathera and eye drugs Lucentis and Xiidra, for which it paid $3.4bn (€3bn) last year, all fell as patients avoided trips to the doctor.

Its net income fell 4% to $1.9bn on sales off 1% at $11.35bn for the three months to June 30.

Chief executive Vas Narasimhan, who once headed the company’s vaccine business, said Novartis now expects mid-single-digit percentage sales growth this year.

It had previously expected mid- to high-single-digit percentage growth.

In contrast, rivals including Johnson & Johnson have raised their 2020 forecasts.

Novartis has tested some of its older medicines, including generic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, against the new coronavirus, but failed to recruit enough patients for that study and had to abandon it.

“My own experience in vaccines teaches me that it is difficult to de novo build scale and expertise to be able to develop large-scale vaccines successfully without the deep expertise that the three or four top manufacturers have,” Mr Narasimhan said on a call with reporters.

In addition to its absence from the race for a Covid-19 vaccine, Novartis’ payments of about $1.1bn to settle corruption cases including in the US and Greece have weighed on investor sentiment, analysts at Zuercher Kantonalbank said. 

- Reuters. 

- Additional reporting Irish Examiner

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