Celgene, stricken by setbacks, bids a quiet goodbye to dealmaking czar Golumbeski

Exit sign
News of its business development chief's exit follows a series of unfavorable developments at Celgene. (Pixabay)

Celgene has suffered a series of damaging stumbles over the last year, culminating last month with the exit of chief operating officer Scott Smith. In a quieter apparent departure, business development head George Golumbeski left the company in April as well.

Golumbeski's last day at Celgene was April 16, according to a resume posted at MorphoSys, where he's now a member of the supervisory board and described as a "self-employed business consultant" in pharma and healthcare, the biotech's website shows. Endpoints News reported the departure, and Celgene didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation. Celgene's own website doesn't list Golumbeski on its management page. 

News of the exit follows a series of unfavorable developments at Celgene. In the fall, it had to abandon a Crohn's disease candidate purchased for $710 million in 2014. The company then missed earnings estimates and trimmed a billion dollars off its 2020 sales guidance, thanks in part to troubles for psoriasis med Otezla, which faces intense competition from newer drugs. 

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Then, in February, the FDA turned away Celgene's much-anticipated multiple sclerosis candidate ozanimod, asking for additional pharmacology data. The biotech picked up the drug in its $7.2 billion Receptos buyout in 2015. Celgene's share prices have fallen nearly 50% since October 2017.

RELATED: Celgene COO Scott Smith exits suddenly in wake of MS fumble, Otezla shortfall 

With those challenges, Celgene said in early April that Smith was leaving the company "effective immediately." 

Leerink Partners analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote earlier this month that the luster is "clearly off" Celgene's business development strategy. The company in March entered an R&D collaboration with Vividion Therapeutics, but Porges said in light of negative developments, "investors are unlikely to have much interest in this transaction, and seem inclined to discount much of the company’s prior business development activity as well."

After the Crohn's trial failure, Celgene last year took its most aggressive price hikes ever on its cash cow Revlimid and follow-up multiple myeloma drug Pomalyst. At the time, patient and advocate David Mitchell—president and founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs—said the company increased its prices to "plug the hole" created by its pipeline shortfalls.

A Celgene spokesman responded that the company's "pricing decisions reflect the benefits that our innovative therapies provide to patients, the healthcare system and society." He added that the value of Celgene's drugs "continue to increase, supported by the growing clinical and real-world outcomes for patients in the approved indications."  

RELATED: Celgene takes its most aggressive price hikes yet on Revlimid, Pomalyst: analyst  

Since then, the Revlimid hike has come under scrutiny from the Trump administration. After President Donald Trump unveiled his drug-pricing plan earlier this month, Department of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar spotlighted Revlimid as an example of how the U.S. pricing system allows pharma companies to "run up huge profits" while patients struggle to afford their meds.  

Azar didn't mention the Celgene blockbuster by name, but detailed a 20% price hike over just one year and said such hikes hurt patients' ability to afford meds. Even with the scrutiny, Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat wrote that Revlimid will keep its pricing power under the administration's proposals. 

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