Pneumonia-stricken Valeant chief takes medical leave of absence

Valeant CEO J. Michael Pearson

Last week, Valeant ($VRX) confirmed that CEO J. Michael Pearson had been hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia--and now, he's taking a medical leave of absence.

To fill the void in the interim, the company's board has created an Office of the Chief Executive Officer, it said Monday morning. That office will include General Counsel Robert Chai-Onn, Company Group Chairman Ari Kellen and CFO Robert Rosiello.

A separate committee to oversee and support the new office will comprise lead independent director Robert Ingram, board member Mason Morfit and former CFO Howard Schiller; it'll be "working closely with the entire management team to ensure that the company continues to operate normally while Mike focuses on his health," Ingram said in a statement.

It's a tough time for the company to be without its leader. After months filled with political scrutiny over its pricing practices and allegations that it used its relationship with specialty pharmacy Philidor to inflate its top line, the Canadian pharma recently unveiled plans to nix most of its planned price increases for next year and fill the void it created when it severed ties with Philidor. It expects to do the latter with a pair of pricing and distribution pacts with retail chain Walgreens ($WBA) that it announced earlier this month.

Valeant's board, though, is confident that Chai-Onn, Kellen and Rosiello will be able to guide Valeant through the transitional period "and protect the long-term strength of the company" in Pearson's absence, Ingram said. "I am confident that with the vast industry and business knowledge from the management team and the board of directors, we will manage through this period."

Shares, which have been pummeled over the course of the controversy, fell 7% in premarket trading.

- read Valeant's release

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