French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi on Monday announced another executive shakeup as several of its key drug franchises continued to encounter headwinds.
The firm, best known for its diabetes and vaccines units, is making several notable changes to its executive committee, including the addition of current Sanofi Pasteur (the company’s vaccines arm) senior vice president of global commercial operations David Loew and the planned creation of a new consumer health care unit.
One notable upcoming departure? Pascale Witz, who currently heads up the pharma’s key diabetes and cardiovascular unit (Witz has been featured in Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women list). She’ll be stepping down effective June 1 after nearly three years at the company.
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Witz has been an important player in Sanofi’s executive roster, helping strike important deals with the likes of Google (GOOG) subsidiary Verily Life Sciences, and took over the diabetes and cardiovascular unit at the beginning of the year during a particularly challenging period. First quarter diabetes drug sales were down more than 11% year-over-year in the U.S. while the global diabetes and cardiovascular unit saw sales slump 5.8%.
A number of factors are contributing to the decline, including: patent expiration for Sanofi’s flagship, blockbuster insulin Lantus; increased competition from rivals like Novo Nordisk (NVO); and sluggish uptake of its new cholesterol medication Praluent, which is co-marketed with partner Regeneron (REGN).
The latter drug, a pricey therapy which Sanofi/Regeneron expects to eventually garner blockbuster sales, has been met with skepticism from insurers and physicians who want to see whether or not its cholesterol-busting prowess translates into broader successes such as lowering patients’ rates of stroke and heart attack. The companies are also juggling a Praluent patent dispute with its lone competitor in the so-called PCSK9 cholesterol drug space, Amgen (AMGN).
Sanofi chief executive Olivier Brandicourt (who was appointed to the position in early 2015) has been plotting big moves in order to give business a jolt, including a $2.3 billion deal with DiCE Molecules in March and an ongoing (and increasingly contentious) bid to buy California-based biotech Medivation (MDVN).