Breaking: Sunovion axes sales reps for asthma meds in consolidation move

Sunovion Pharmaceuticals broke some bad news to sales reps for its respiratory meds this holiday season. The company is consolidating its national respiratory sales organization, laying off a number of reps to streamline how it promotes its allergy and asthma drugs, according to an emailed statement provided to FiercePharma by the drugmaker's vice president of corporate communications, Susan Alesina, on Wednesday.

Alesina declined to provide specific details on the layoffs, including how many people are being let go. However, a source with knowledge of the cuts informed FiercePharma that the cutbacks wipe out the company's entire Summit sales team, which marketed the asthma drugs Xopenex and Alvesco, and that about 288 people are getting pink slips. The source says the timing of the job cuts was a surprise to some people, given that Xopenex's patent exclusivity still has some life in it. Drugmakers often make sales cutbacks ahead of when drugs get hit with competition from low-cost generics.

"This action was the result of Sunovion's ongoing evaluation of how the company allocates its resources and implements promotional strategies across the entire portfolio of its marketed products," the company's statement said. "Sunovion believes this action will help to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of our field sales efforts in serving asthma and allergy customer needs."

Sunovion, based in Marlborough, MA, is a unit of Japan's Dainippon Sumitomo, which snapped up the business formerly known as Sepracor in 2009 for $2.6 billion. The Japanese pharma group employs more than 7,000 people globally and has annual revenue of $3.3 billion, according to Sunovion's website.