Merck KGaA appoints new head of drugs unit

Merck KGaA appointed Stefan Oschmann as head of its Merck Serono and consumer health care units, succeeding Elmar Schnee, who is leaving for personal reasons. Oschmann, who was previously head of emerging markets at Merck & Co., will assume the lead of the Merck Serono division as of January 1.

Citing unnamed sources, the Financial Times Deutschland earlier reported that Merck's chief financial officer Michael Becker is expected to retire and that chief executive Karl-Ludwig Kley's contract will be extended.

"The management change is certainly a reaction to the disappointments with Erbitux and cladribine," noted Kepler Capital Markets analyst Martin Vogtli. Last year, authorities in Europe also recommended against approval of Erbitux (cetuximab) to treat patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. In September, European regulators recommended against approval of cladribine, while the FDA recently extended its review for the multiple sclerosis drug.

Jeffrey Holford of Jefferies International remarked that the company’s drug unit will come "under pressure in 2011," with competition for Rebif (interferon beta-1a) and Erbitux likely to result in core operating profit at the division falling 2 percent next year.

To read more Top Story articles, click here.