UPDATED: Former Valeant CFO Schiller to step in for hospitalized CEO Pearson

Valeant CEO J. Michael Pearson

Last week, Valeant ($VRX) CEO J. Michael Pearson, in the hospital with severe pneumonia, took a medical leave of absence. And now, the company is putting a new chief in his place.

Former Valeant CFO and board member Howard Schiller will step in for Pearson on an interim basis, effective immediately, Valeant said Wednesday morning. Robert Ingram, the company's lead independent director, will serve as interim chairman.

"Howard's performance as Valeant's CFO, as well as his deep understanding of Valeant's operations, are excellent and we are grateful that he has agreed to take on this role. The board will continue to work closely with Howard and the other members of the senior management team to implement Valeant's strategy successfully in Mike's absence," Ingram said in a statement, noting that the timing of Pearson's recovery and return "remains uncertain."

Schiller, who served as Valeant's CFO from December 2011 through June 2015, will step in for the three-man Office of the Chief Executive Officer--comprising General Counsel Robert Chai-Onn, Company Group Chairman Ari Kellen and current CFO Robert Rosiello--that's been running the show in Pearson's stead since Dec. 28.

The move marks one of many recent changes for the Quebec-based drugmaker, which has floundered lately amid political scrutiny over its pricing practices and allegations that it used its relationship with specialty pharmacy Philidor to inflate its top line. To fill the void after cutting ties with Philidor, the company announced a pricing and distribution deal with Walgreens last month--as well as plans to scrap "virtually all" of its planned price hikes for this year.

But despite the beating the company's stock has taken throughout the course of the controversy, Valeant's board has continued to back Pearson, who has remade the company into a skincare and eye-care-focused M&A machine since taking the helm in 2008.

"Mike remains focused on running the business and has been meeting with physicians, partners, and other stakeholders," company spokeswoman Laurie Little told Bloomberg by email in November. "Despite recent market volatility that has impacted our stock price, Valeant's core business remains strong and is well positioned for growth."

- read Valeant's release

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