Bayer is struggling with more than just sales at its important consumer health business. This week, the company kicked off another Alka-Seltzer recall due to packaging issues.
In its second recall for the franchise in less than a year, the German drugmaker is pulling certain Alka-Seltzer Plus packages that were sold in Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger stores after Feb. 9. The packages might contain the wrong ingredients and could cause "serious health consequences," the company said, but emphasized that none have been reported.
A Bayer spokesperson declined to say how many packages are affected.
The recall comes shortly after Bayer reported consumer health sales of €5.86 billion in 2017, a 1.7% decline from the prior year. The slip stemmed in part from "persistently weak business development in the United States," CEO Werner Baumann said in a statement. Apart from problems in the U.S., Chinese officials switched two Bayer OTC skincare brands to prescription-only, denting sales there by €70 million, according to Bernstein analyst Jeremy Redenius.
Looking ahead, the drugmaker is expecting €5.5 billion in consumer health sales this year, which would mark another decline for the business. The guidance came up short of Wall Street's €6 billion estimate.
Aiming for the top of the OTC food chain under former CEO Marijn Dekkers, Bayer picked up Merck's consumer health assets for $14.2 billion back in 2014. But more recently, lower-margin businesses such as consumer healthcare and generics have come under increased pricing pressure in the U.S. To help get back on course, Bayer brought in former Nestlé exec Heiko Schipper in November to lead the consumer outfit.
GlaxoSmithKline, another top OTC drugmaker, grew 2017 consumer sales 2% at constant exchange rates to £7.8 billion.
Meanwhile, Bayer is working to finalize its megamerger with agrochemical giant Monsanto, a deal that has caused some industry watchers to worry about Bayer's pharma business. Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the deal—announced back in 2016—hasn't yet won over U.S. antitrust regulators.