CEO Paul Hudson has sharp words for Sanofi's mistakes—and a pointed plan he thinks will fix them

On just his 100th day as Sanofi's CEO, Paul Hudson has reviewed the business and laid out his vision for the future. It's an aggressive plan to refocus the company around existing growth drivers and "transformative" launches while simplifying management structures and spending smarter.

And at a much-anticipated meeting with investors, the new CEO didn’t shy away from talking about where he believes Sanofi has made mistakes in the past. For one, the drugmaker has “procrastinated” with making hard decisions, he said.

Going forward, the company isn’t going to pursue “me-too” or “me-too-late" drugs, Hudson said, referring to follow-up meds in competitive classes that often face tough payer negotiations and in many cases don’t live up to commercial expectations. As evidence, Sanofi on Tuesday shook up its Regeneron collaboration on PCSK9 Praluent and immunology med Kevzara, two meds that have struggled on the market.

On the flip side, the drugmaker is all-in on Dupixent, a Regeneron-partnered drug that Sanofi expects can pull in up to €10 billion in peak sales. It's among the "growth drivers" that Sanofi plans to emphasize, along with vaccines and a set of 6 pipeline meds in RSV, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and more.

Even as the drugmaker is increasingly shifting its focus to cancer and rare diseases, Hudson had some thoughts on Sanofi’s 2018 Bioverativ buyout. The drugmaker this year took a $2 billion write-down due to competition for Bioverativ's hemophilia med Eloctate, and Hudson asked who was “asleep at the wheel” during the dealmaking process.  

Roche’s Hemlibra has taken a strong position in the market, and Hudson figures Sanofi underestimated “just how mobile” hemophilia patients were and how likely they'd be to switch over to Roche's option.

RELATED: Sanofi takes $2B hemophilia write-down as Roche's Hemlibra brings the heat 

That setback isn’t going to stop Sanofi from bolstering up in disease areas where it thinks it can succeed, though. Hudson said he’s going to “manage the business to double down where we need to, but also be profitable.” Sanofi isn't going to pursue drug projects that it doesn’t think are “transformational” or won’t be “appreciated” by payers. 

Sanofi is “proud of our past,” but has to make “hard choices,” he said, adding that its history shouldn’t dictate future investments. The drugmaker on Monday announced it's discontinuing R&D in diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, where it has decades of history and has been an industry leader.

Under Hudson, the drugmaker is restructuring into 3 main global business units—plus a standalone consumer healthcare group—in order to simplify management structures. It’s aiming for $2 billion in savings by 2022 through limiting spending on those deprioritized businesses, “smart spending” and improving manufacturing productivity. 

At Tuesday’s event, Sanofi CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon said the company is already reducing travel expenses by moving meetings to Zoom video conferencing. The system hosts more than 11,000 Sanofi meetings per day, he said. The drugmaker is also empowering employees in an effort to reduce consulting fees and has launched an e-learning platform to train employees at lower costs. The company estimates it’ll reduce support staff headcount by 8% this year, he added. 

RELATED: Sanofi CEO Hudson backs away from struggling diabetes, cardiovascular areas in strategy unveiling 

Hudson joined Sanofi in September from Novartis, taking the reins from former Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt. Brandicourt served for four years, implementing his own restructuring efforts and inking two rare disease buyouts in early 2018, including Bioverativ.