Vertex appoints new ex-US commercial chief, as CF drug pricing row rages

Vertex has appointed a new commercial head for ex-US activites, as the company aims to resolve its two-year row with UK health officials over the price of its cystic fibrosis drugs.

Ludovic Fenaux has been appointed senior vice president of International Commercial Operations, with responsibility for commercial activities outside the US and Canada, including overseeing offices and operations across Europe, Australia, and Latin America.

He started his new role this week, reporting to Stuart Arbuckle, executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

Fenaux succeeds Simon Bedson, who is retiring after seven years as Vertex’s senior vice president and general manager, international commercial operations and nearly 30 years in pharma.

Simon Bedson

Simon Bedson

Bedson has been leading Vertex’s unsuccessful attempts to get England’s National Health Service to fund its Orkambi combination drug for cystic fibrosis.

Since NICE rejected Orkambi two years ago, Vertex has been trying to thrash out a deal covering all its already approved drugs, and those in the pipeline, but has so far been unsuccessful.

In April, Bedson wrote to health ministers urging them to resolve the pricing row as soon as possible, following a parliamentary debate and petition from patients calling for the drug to be made available.

Since then Vertex has refused to send a dossier of its latest combination drug to NICE after it was green-lighted by European regulators, ahead of likely EU approval in the coming weeks.

Vertex has said it will re-engage with NICE once it has modernised and revamped its assessment procedures.

But the company has not endeared itself to patients, who have become increasingly impatient with Vertex’s refusal to reveal its prices during negotiations with NHS England, or meet the pricing demands of health service representatives.

With two decades of experience in pharma, Fenaux was most recently head of intercontinental region at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

He made no comment about whether his appointment will result in a change of approach from Vertex in the UK.

The company has successfully launched Orkambi in other countries – most recently Australia, where it is drawing up a results-based managed access agreement with health officials.

Ludovic Fenaux

Ludovic Fenaux

Fenaux said: “I am excited to be joining Vertex at a time when the company is not only pursuing medicines that treat cystic fibrosis but also investing in other serious diseases, tackling the biggest challenges in medicine.”

“I look forward to being part of an industry leader, driven by an understanding of human biology, to progress scientific innovations that address the underlying cause of disease.”

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