Novartis cuts top commercial title, replaces departing exec Marie-France Tschudin with AbbVie vet Patrick Horber

Just as Novartis’ C-suite appeared to have stabilized amid a major overhaul of the company, the Swiss pharma is losing its international markets leader and getting rid of its chief commercial officer title.

Marie-France Tschudin, currently Novartis’ president of innovative medicines international, has decided to leave the company and will step down effective Sept. 15, Novartis said Wednesday.

To replace her, Novartis has poached the head of immunology from the world’s top inflammatory disease drug maker, AbbVie. Patrick Horber, M.D., who just recently rose to lead AbbVie’s megablockbuster immunology franchise, will assume the international president role at Novartis later this year.

Along with the transition, Novartis has decided to do away with Tschudin’s second title of chief commercial officer.

“Both Presidents, U.S. and International, will partner strongly to lead the commercial activities at Novartis, especially for certain key commercial decisions where one aligned Novartis view is critical,” a Novartis spokesperson said in an email. “Hence the CCO role per se is no longer required.”

Novartis rolled out its current commercial business structure—which divides the company by geographies rather than therapeutic areas—last April as part of a groupwide shake-up. Before that, Tschudin managed the company’s non-oncology portfolio.

The restructuring pushed out Tschudin’s oncology counterpart Susanne Schaffert, Ph.D. And Shreeram Aradhye, M.D., was brought back to replace John Tsai, M.D., as chief medical officer. Aside from the executives, about 8,000 Novartis staff-level jobs landed on the chopping block.

With Tschudin gone, only two C-level executives other than CEO Vas Narasimhan have stayed at their current Novartis position for at least three years. Harry Kirsch has been the company’s chief financial officer since 2013, and Klaus Moosmayer, Ph.D., has held the chief ethics, risk and compliance officer job since 2018.

“I leave Novartis with a strong sense of pride and accomplishment in how we have delivered on our purpose,” Tschudin said in a statement.

Narasimhan thanked Tschudin for her nearly seven years of “extraordinary leadership” at Novartis and for her contributions during the commercial model makeover.

Tschudin is leaving a Novartis that’s putting an increasing emphasis on the U.S. business. This “U.S.-first” mindset, unveiled a year ago, means the U.S. market has priority in the company’s decision-making around research, dealmaking, commercialization and patient services, Novartis’ U.S. president Victor Bulto told Fierce Pharma in January during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

Novartis has historically had a strong business outside of the U.S., but that part of the company is growing at a slower clip thanks to pricing pressure and generic competition. In the first half of 2023, Novartis’ innovative medicine sales grew by 12% to $8.6 billion in the U.S., whereas the rest of the world ginned up a 6% growth rate at constant currencies, reaching $13.2 billion.

In Horber, Novartis is getting a Swiss native who went to medical school at the University of Zurich. He’s spent nearly 11 years at AbbVie and was just promoted to president of immunology in July, according to his LinkedIn profile.

AbbVie owns the world’s largest inflammatory disease franchise, which generated $12.4 billion sales in the first half of 2023. Immunology drugs make up nearly half of the Illinois pharma’s overall sales. The company is busy fighting biosimilars to Humira and rolling out Skyrizi and Rinvoq to replace the off-patent TNF blocker.

Horber will come aboard later this year, although the Novartis spokesperson offered no official timeline. Mukul Mehta, the CFO of international markets, will lead the unit in the interim.