Lilly management shakeup brings Novartis vet Shaw in, moves Conterno up and puts U.S. chief out

Eli Lilly
After announcing a salesforce reduction last year, Eli Lilly is restructuring its top commercial management ranks, bringing in Novartis vet Christi Shaw and elevating current diabetes chief Enrique Conterno.

At Eli Lilly & Co., it’s a new year with a new CEO, new top managers and a newly streamlined business structure.

The Big Pharma, still reeling from the failure of its high-risk, high-reward bet on Alzheimer’s drug solanezumab, is overhauling its commercial organization from the top down. The latest moves put new faces at the top of Lilly’s U.S. business and its BioMedicines unit, reducing the number of managers and streamline geographical divisions.

The restructuring comes amid other big moves in Lilly's commercial organization, including a field-force scaleback and shift away from marketing older brands such as the erectile dysfunction med Cialis. The company launched two new meds last year, has one on tap for early 2017 and has promised many more this decade.

Christi Shaw, who bowed out of the top U.S. job at Novartis last year for family reasons, has signed up to replace Lilly’s newly minted CEO David Ricks as head of its Bio-Medicines business. Enrique Conterno, SVP and president of Lilly Diabetes, will become president of Lilly USA as well as diabetes chief, replacing Alex Azar, who’s leaving the company.

Conterno’s geographic reach as head of diabetes will expand, too, as the unit adds China to its current work in the U.S. Japan and Canada. Lilly Bio-Medicines and Oncology will also add China to their portfolios.

Meanwhile, Lilly’s emerging markets business will merge with its European business to form Lilly International, headed up by current emerging markets chief Alfonso Zulueta.

The management changes follow a set of job cuts in Lilly’s U.S. salesforce, which had staffed up in anticipation of solanezumab’s approval. Facing patent expirations on top of solanezumab’s loss, the company plans to cut its Bio-Medicines sales force this quarter, with media reports putting the number of lost jobs in the hundreds. Lilly itself hasn’t said how many positions would be cut.

As part of that scaleback, Lilly has decided to stop promoting other meds nearing patent expiration, including the erectile dysfunction treatment Cialis, the ADHD med Strattera and the blood clot-fighter Effient.

Shaw, who starts her new job at Lilly April 3, will thus be taking the reins at Bio-Medicines amid big changes, and with several new launches on tap. Baricitinib, the rheumatoid arthritis drug Lilly developed with Incyte, is due for an FDA decision this month. Lilly has said it’s on track toward its goal of rolling out 20 medicines between 2014 and 2023.

Shaw already knows a little something about Lilly, however: She worked in the company’s sales and marketing departments from 1989 to 2002. Ricks said in a statement that her work since—at Johnson & Johnson and Novartis—will bring some external perspective to Lilly’s leadership team.

"I'm excited to welcome Christi Shaw back to Lilly—where she started her career," Ricks said, citing Shaw’s success in leading commercial teams and experience working with product development. “Thoughout her career, Christi has produced strong results, built a reputation for accountability and showed compassion for patients,” Ricks said.

In addition to the future launches, Shaw will be tasked with maintaining momentum for Lilly’s new psoriasis drug Taltz. That drug has made some quick gains in a head-to-head competition with Novartis’ Cosentyx—whose launch Shaw actually led at Novartis. In announcing her departure last April, Novartis called the drug’s rollout “one of the most successful launches in the industry to date.” 

Lilly will need some more successful launches to counteract patent expirations and keep its sales trajectory headed upward. The company won two FDA approvals last year, Taltz and Lartruvo (olaratumab), a treatment for soft-tissue sarcoma. Baricitinib’s decision date is imminent, and breast cancer fighter abemaciclib, though not yet filed with the FDA, is a prospect commonly cited by analysts as a potential big seller.

"With new medicines recently launched—and potential new medicines in development for cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, neurodegeneration, and pain—Lilly is in the early stages of a new growth period," Ricks said. "Now is the time to make sure that our organization is set up to make the most of these opportunities. With clear priorities and the right structure, achieving growth while improving our productivity will go hand-in-hand."