Under threat of early Ampyra knockoffs, Acorda plans to chop 100 jobs

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Acorda will lay off 20% of its workforce, with most of the cuts set to wrap up by the end of the month.

Acorda Therapeutics plans to appeal a court’s recent decision to nix four of its five patents on multiple sclerosis med Ampyra, which brings in most of its revenue. But in the meantime, it’s preparing for the worst.

With the possibility of generic competition looming next July for its $493 million seller, the company is cutting 20% of its workforce, or more than 100 staffers, CEO Ron Cohen said in an interview. Most of the layoffs will take place this month, and Acorda expects to save $21 million annually with the move.

RELATED: Court nixes Acorda patents, teeing up Ampyra generics—and potential cost cuts, analyst says

The cuts will be “falling widely across the organization,” Cohen said, though they’ll disproportionally affect the R&D organization as the company reduces its emphasis on earlier stage programs and shifts focus to lead pipeline candidates CVT-301 and tozadenant, both for Parkinson’s.

Two areas that’ll remain largely untouched? Commercial and manufacturing. Acorda will need those groups to keep making and selling Ampyra for as long as it has exclusivity on the product—and it’s hoping it’ll soon be able to put more on their plates, too. The company intends to file an NDA for CV-301 at the end of the second quarter, Cohen said.

Things looked good for Acorda just a few weeks ago, when the company triumphed over pharma patent challenger Kyle Bass. But one win wasn’t enough, and last week, a court delivered a crushing blow, upturning four of the company’s five patents.

RELATED: Acorda wins big over thwarted patent challenger Bass as PTO upholds Ampyra's IP

Going forward, an ideal scenario for Acorda, of course, would feature an appeal win—a victory that would allow the company to hang onto its Ampyra sales and, in turn, bulk up its roughly 100-person sales force by 35% for CVT-301’s launch. The extra reps would cover movement disorder specialists within neurology who deal specifically with Parkinson’s and thus aren’t currently visited by Acorda’s MS callers.

But that scenario is still a long ways from playing out. For now, Cohen said that as he bids his colleagues farewell, he’s finding himself “wishing that people had better insight into the reality that we live every day” in the drug industry.

Pharma employees “by and large, are some of the most admirable people on earth because they sign up for this kind of risk knowing that it could hit from any direction at any time, whether it’s the SEC or IP or clinical failure or whatever,” Cohen said. It’s “one of the riskiest enterprises you could ever imagine.”