© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Johnson & Johnson Vice President and Worldwide Pharmaceuticals President Joaquin Duato attends a press conference at Actelion headquarters in Allschwil, Switzerland on January 26, 2017. REUTERS / Arnd Wiegmann
By Carl O’Donnell and Manojna Maddipatla
(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson on Thursday appointed Joaquín Duato as chief executive officer to replace veteran Alex Gorsky to head the healthcare conglomerate for the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic.
Duato, the current vice president of the executive committee, will take the reins and will occupy a position on the board from January 3. Gorsky, who was in charge for nine years, will become CEO.
The transition will put the world’s largest pharmaceutical company by market value in the hands of a company veteran who took a leadership role in J & J’s (NYSE 🙂 COVID-19 response and helped shape its pharmaceutical business strategy. .
Gorsky said in a statement that it was the right time to make the change both for the company and for him personally, as he focuses more on the family due to “family health reasons.”
Gorsky oversaw massive growth during his tenure, establishing J&J as a major player in the rare disease market and leading the development of the first single injection COVID-19 vaccine.
But he was also in command during some of the biggest crises in company history, including allegations that its baby powder contained cancer-causing asbestos and litigation claiming it contributed to the opioid epidemic in America.
The “surprise and unexpected” leadership change comes at a challenging time for J&J, but the transition is likely to be smooth given that Duato is a known executive with a successful track record, CFRA Research analyst Sel Hardy said in an email. .
Duato has served in a variety of roles during his more than 30 years at J&J, most recently overseeing its pharmaceutical and consumer health businesses, which have a total of $ 60 billion in sales.
He helped establish a focus on the company’s fastest growing therapeutic areas and helped lead the integration of data science and computer automation into J&J research and operations.
During the pandemic, Duato led global initiatives “to safeguard employee health and ensure business and supply chain continuity,” Gorsky said. Duato was also president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group.
J & J’s market capitalization increased from nearly $ 180 billion to more than $ 470 billion under Gorsky, while its share price increased by more than 170%.
The company’s cancer drug business grew from $ 2 billion in sales in 2011 to more than $ 12 billion in 2020 thanks in large part to the successful Darzalex and Imbruvica blood cancer treatments.
The move to drugs for rare diseases was driven by the acquisition of Actelion, the largest in its history, for $ 30 billion. The vaccine division made significant progress beyond its COVID-19 injection, including inoculations against Ebola.
But Gorsky’s tenure has been influenced by lawsuits and product recalls.
Along with the litigation over its baby powder and pain relievers, J&J in 2019 paid more than $ 100 million to resolve claims from states that misrepresented the safety and effectiveness of its transvaginal surgical mesh devices.
The drugmaker recently recalled certain aerosol sunscreen products after discovering that some of them contained low levels of benzene, a carcinogen.
J&J also faced major setbacks in the COVID-19 vaccine launch earlier this year, when quality problems at a Baltimore manufacturing plant wasted millions of doses and delayed production.
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