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Pfizer Inc. (PFE) will soon shift certain U.S. promotional responsibilities for the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel to its marketing partner, Amgen Inc. (AMGN), as the drug makers prepare to wind down a longstanding North American partnership.
Pfizer and Amgen have agreed to consolidate all U.S. field sales activities under Amgen, effective July 23, spokeswomen for both companies confirmed Wednesday. The changes are specific to the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and don't affect Canada.
The companies said the move will ensure continuity in customer service as they prepare for the planned October 2013 expiration of their arrangement to co-promote Enbrel for treatments including rheumatoid arthritis in the U.S. and Canada.
The move also comes as Pfizer prepares for a possible introduction of a new drug, tofacitinib, that would compete with Enbrel. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing Pfizer's application to market tofacitinib to treat rheumatoid arthritis, with a decision expected in August.
"The unified Amgen sales force allows Amgen and Pfizer to ensure continuity in customer service during the transition time," said Amgen spokeswoman Christine Regan.
Pfizer sales representatives currently promoting Enbrel will be able to apply for Amgen jobs promoting Enbrel or seek other Pfizer jobs, Pfizer spokeswoman Victoria Davis said.
The companies declined to say how many employees would be affected by the consolidation, or how big the current Enbrel field force is.
Amgen and Pfizer have also decided to expand the Enbrel sales force in the second half of 2012, said Amgen's Regan. The newly hired representatives and sales leadership will be Amgen employees. She declined to quantify the planned expansion.
The North American partnership for Enbrel--established in the 1990s--is due to expire in October 2013, after which Amgen will commercialize the drug in the U.S. and Canada. Pfizer will continue to have exclusive rights to market the drug outside the U.S. and Canada.
Other aspects of the North American partnership will remain unchanged until October 2013, such as sharing the agreed-upon sales and marketing expenses approved by a joint management committee. The companies share Enbrel profits in North America.
Pfizer reported $3.7 billion in Enbrel sales for 2011, which represents regions outside U.S. and Canada. Amgen recorded $3.7 billion in Enbrel sales from the U.S. and Canada.
Pfizer obtained its Enbrel rights with its acquisition of Wyeth in 2009, while Amgen obtained its Enbrel rights with its 2002 purchase of Immunex.
After the North American collaboration expires in 2013, Pfizer is entitled to a royalty stream on Enbrel sales for three years, but that amount is expected to be significantly less than its current share of Enbrel profits from U.S. and Canadian sales, Pfizer disclosed in a recent regulatory filing.
-By Peter Loftus, Dow Jones Newswires; +1-215-982-5581; email@example.com