Amid Krystexxa woes, Savient plots layoffs and taps new CEO

Savient Pharmaceuticals ($SVNT) had high hopes for Krystexxa, the gout drug it launched in 2010. But when it comes to drug sales, hope doesn't spring eternal. After $102 million in 2011 losses, and first-quarter Krystexxa revenues of just $3.1 million, the U.S. drugmaker plans to cut 35% of its workforce and trim costs to save $56 million annually.

Savient's cutbacks--about 60 jobs, including current vacancies--will leave the company with about 35 sales reps and three regional managers, Dow Jones reports. That's not much of a field force, but Krystexxa has proven to be more of a specialty drug for severe gout than a standard-issue treatment for the painful disorder.

Interim chief David Norton is also a casualty: He'll remain on the board, but will give up CEO duties to Louis Ferrari, who has been running Savient's North American commercial operations. Ferrari has worked at the company since February 2011, soon after Krystexxa won FDA approval. Norton had been filling in since February 2012, when ex-chief John Johnson jumped ship. Johnson is now CEO at Dendreon, which makes the cancer treatment Provenge (also with its own sales disappointments, but that's another story).

Actually, Savient never meant to field a sales force at all. The company wanted to win FDA approval for Krystexxa and then sell itself to a bigger company that could support its launch. But those hopes never came to fruition, either. So, as the Star-Ledger reminds us, the company added 62 to its sales roster last year to back up the Krystexxa launch. And now, it's on to Plan C.

- see the release from Savient
- read the Dow Jones coverage (sub. req.)
- get more from the Star-Ledger

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