AZ, BMS create 'Diabetes Inc.,' combine marketing in new home

AstraZeneca's new chief executive, Pascal Soriot wants the diabetes marketing teams from the AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) partnership to think deep thoughts about how they are going to sell more products. To do that, they have been put together and the team then sequestered in their own home away from the distractions of their respective companies.

"That is on purpose because we want them to think diabetes," he told The Wall Street Journal. "We want them to have their own company, in a way--Diabetes Inc."

As part of the new togetherness, Soriot says both companies have appointed executives to jointly run the new team and housed everyone outside Philadelphia, which sits roughly between the U.S. headquarters for the two parents in Wilmington, DE, and New York. BMS officials chose not to talk about the arrangement.

Soriot has been shaking things up at his moribund company. He has already replaced two of AstraZeneca's top executives--R&D President Martin Mackay and commercial Executive Vice President Tony Zook--and revamped the structure of top management.

The new diabetes marketing combo has a lot to think about so removing the group from such distractions may be useful. Both companies are counting on diabetes drug sales to help overcome revenue declines elsewhere. Soriot mentioned diabetes treatments in his Jan. 31 earnings report as one of 5 growth platforms.

The marketers may also have to think hard about how some of their drugs are priced. The U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) cost-effectiveness watchdog turned thumbs-down Friday on their new diabetes drug Forxiga. It was approved in November for sale in the EU but failed to impress the gatekeepers. They were unconvinced that Forxiga works any better as an add-on therapy than other drugs already in use.

Forxiga won the EU's blessing in spite of questions about the side effects of the drug, which is the first in a new class of diabetes meds. The FDA is still hung up on the side effects. The drugmakers are aiming to go back to the FDA in midyear with new data.

- here's the WSJ piece