GALEN, THE acquisitive female health care company, has substantially scaled back its marketing of hormone replacement therapy drugs after a series of cancer scares hit sales.
The company, which said yesterday it planned to change its name to Warner Chilcott, its trading name in the US, has also stopped actively promoting its novel vaginal ring. The product, called Femring, is used to deliver oestrogen to menopausal women, but has failed to take off.
Unveiling record interim profits of $97m (pounds 55m), up 172 per cent, Galen said it had reduced the sales effort behind HRT products at the start of this year. It has switched resources to back the company's portfolio of contraceptive pills.
"Strategically, that is where we want to be," Roger Boissonneault, its chief executive, said. "Oral contraception is a $3bn-a-year market."
The change of focus has been accompanied by extra work on a new generation of contraceptive pills which Galen created to extend the patent protection on its brands. The company revealed yesterday that it is trialling 24- day versions of its Estrostep and Loestrin pills. And it recently bought a Puerto Rican factory to manufacture a chewy mint version of Ovcon, the launch of which has been delayed by problems with the company's existing manufacturing partner, Bristol- Myers Squibb.
The market for HRT products has plunged after studies last year suggested that long-term use increased the risk of breast cancer. Prescriptions for Galen's HRT treatments have continued to fall, although it has been able to push up prices to compensate and is investing in a new low-dose version of its leading product, Femhrt. Mr Boissonneault said the failure of Femring was due in part to the health scare and partly because it was complicated to explain to patients.
Shareholders will vote on the name change at an extra-ordinary general meeting later this summer.
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