Abbott merges U.S., foreign pharma units under new chief

Abbott Laboratories is rewriting its pharma org chart. Its U.S. pharma chief, Donald Patton, plans to retire at the end of the month, but rather than fill his existing job, the company will combine the U.S. unit with its international counterpart, Dow Jones reports. The new "proprietary pharmaceuticals division" wil be headed up by Carlos Alban, who's been running the international pharma business.

The combo comes at a time when Abbott--like virtually every other Big Pharma--is streamlining its operations in the face of patent expirations and drug-development woes. The company just last month announced 1,900 job cuts centered on its U.S. pharma ops, on top of 3,000 companywide cuts in Fall 2010.

Abbott is also increasingly focused on international markets. With U.S. pharma sales growth expected to slow as emerging markets accelerate, the company recently bought Piramal Healthcare's drugs unit, becoming India's largest drugmaker in one fell swoop.

And, as Dow Jones points out, the company already split off its off-patent drugs business, creating an "established products" unit focused on marketing branded generics. So, Alban will be charged with combining a diminishing U.S. pharma unit with an increasingly important foreign business, presumably overseeing the U.S. layoffs at the same time.

- read the Dow Jones news