Novartis shuffles OTC management, wants

Former OTC head, known for her marketing expertise, is out the door

Regular readers of Pharmaceutical Commerce know that we take a pretty intense look at supply-chain and distribution issues in the industry; basically, our contention is, you can't sell what you don't have, and superior supply chain management can make the difference. So there's some satisfaction in the news that one senior executive at Novartis is being replaced by another for his supply chain expertise.

Naomi Kelman, a one-year veteran with Novartis, is leaving the company; her replacement as division head of its OTC business is Brian McNamara. In a letter sent to company staff, CEO Joe Jimenez wrote: "Naomi Kelman came to our OTC business to leverage her strengths in innovation and marketing. As the conditions of the business changed, it became clear that a strong effort in manufacturing and supply chain would be essential to growing the business." And while thanking Kelman for helping the company by "focusing on product innovation as well as conceptual innovation such as advertising and shopper's insights," he expressed confidence that McNamara would be "building our priority brands, improving quality, and driving robust growth in key emerging markets." (These sentences were not in a differently worded public statement; tip ‘o the hat to Pharmalot, which published the internal memo.) Key brands include Theraflu, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Excedrin and Prevacid products.

The previous news from Novartis is hard to overlook: the company has had to conduct broad product recalls, has temporarily shut down its Lincoln, NE plant, and will be taking at least a $120-million writeoff in the current quarter. In truth, the manufacturing problems might have predated Kelman's tenure; and Novartis is by no means alone in needing to upgrade its internal production problems. And while no one should claim that marketing and advertising are peripheral to running today's pharma industry, ensuring that products are safe, and that quality is maintained throughout the distribution process, remain core capabilities.