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ALZA'S NEW CHIEF WILL BE EX-GLAXO CEO ERNEST MARIO

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

ALZA'S NEW CHIEF WILL BE EX-GLAXO CEO ERNEST MARIO effective Aug. 2, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based drug delivery firm announced on July 12. Mario, deputy chairman and CEO of Glaxo Holdings until this spring, will succeed Martin Gerstel as co-chairman and CEO. Alza has been looking for a new chief executive since February 1992, when Gerstel announced his intention to leave the top spot to pursue personal interests. Mario, 55, left Glaxo in March over differences with the company's board of directors on what direction Glaxo should take in the OTC area ("The Tan Sheet" March 15, p. 3). Reportedly, Mario favored a more aggressive approach to building an OTC business than did others on the board. He joined Glaxo in 1986 as president of Glaxo U.S. and quickly rose to the top spot at the company. Prior to joining Glaxo, Mario was a group VP at Squibb. Mario will share the Alza chairmanship with founder Alejandro Zaffaroni. Jane Shaw will remain as president and chief operating officer, Alza said. Gerstel, 52, will assume the new title of vice chairman "for the interim to assist Dr. Mario during the transition," Alza added. After the transition, Gerstel "will continue as a member of the company's board of directors." Gerstel has been with Alza since its founding in 1968. Mario is assuming the top spot at Alza in the midst of the company's effort to expand its in-house promotional and manufacturing capabilities. Recent and upcoming launches of Alza- developed products include the Janssen fentanyl patch Duragesic, the Marion Merrell Dow nicotine patch Nicoderm and the two Ciba- Geigy OTC medicines -- Efidac/24 once-a-day pseudoephedrine and a 24-hour chlorpheniramine allergy product ("The Tan Sheet" July 12, In Brief). Alza also has recently established a spinoff to focus on developing proprietary drugs. Mario's main challenge, however, will be to maintain Alza's royalty stream, which remains reliant on sales of Pfizer's prescription antihypertensive Procardia XL. The $ 1 bil. product is now facing its first direct competition from a once-a-day nifedipine brand, Miles' Adalat CC. A third once-a-day nifedipine, Elan/Miles' Nifelan, is pending approval. A more significant threat could be a generic equivalent to Procardia XL. Alza's delivery system is patented through 2002, but generic firms, including KV, are understood to be pursuing bioequivalent versions. During Mario's tenure at Glaxo, Alza and Glaxo collaborated on the development of the sustained-release albuterol formulation Volmax, which was approved Dec. 23 after a five-year review. The prescription asthma drug was subsequently outlicensed to Muro. Alza and Glaxo have not disclosed any other collaborative agreements.
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