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Teva taps Sandoz veteran to take over CEO post from Schultz

Generic drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical on Monday named former Sandoz head Richard Francis as its next CEO, taking over on Jan. 1 from Kåre Schultz, who has served in the role since 2017.

Currently a partner at the U.K. life sciences financier Syncona, Francis has a long background in the pharmaceutical industry, having served in marketing, commercial strategy and senior executive roles for Sanofi and Biogen before taking charge of Sandoz, Novartis’ generics division.

He is the sixth person to lead Teva since 2012, two of whom held the CEO role on an interim basis.

Francis will face multiple challenges at Teva. The company’s revenue is shrinking as a result of generic competition to its flagship multiple sclerosis treatment, Copaxone. Newer products like the migraine shot Ajovy and Austedo, a treatment for Huntington’s disease-related movement disorders, have not offset those losses.

The company has also been working to pay off the roughly $34 billion worth of debt it accumulated following its acquisition of the Actavis generics business from Allergan in 2015. The company’s net debt was reduced to $19 billion at the end of the third quarter of 2022, the company said.

Teva is still negotiating the terms of legal settlements related to opioid promotion in the U.S., too. Earlier this year, the company reached an agreement in principle to pay states and Native American tribes more than $4 billion, and is still working on non-financial terms of that agreement.

In its attempts to grow revenue, Teva will lean heavily on launching biosimilar copycats of major biologic drugs like AbbVie’s Humira and Johnson & Johnson’s Stelara. Its Humira biosimilar could launch in the U.S. as soon as July 2023, potentially putting Teva in position to compete with a formulation that’s directly substitutable for AbbVie’s branded inflammatory disease drug.

But that effort recently hit a setback, when Teva’s development partner Alvotech announced the Food and Drug Administration had rejected its application because of manufacturing deficiencies at its plant in Iceland. Alvotech claims the deficiencies can be corrected before the planned July 1 launch of the biosimilar and believes the FDA will be satisfied enough with its progress to approve the drug by a December deadline.

An on-time launch of the Humira biosimilar might help to restore investors’ confidence in Teva, shares of which are trading at roughly half the price they were when Schultz became CEO. Teva’s U.S.-listed shares fell around 2% in morning trading Monday.

“This is the right time for a transition, and Richard’s proven track record in the industry makes him the right person to serve as Teva’s next CEO,” Schultz said in a statement.