Healthcare: At a Glance - Schering-Plough bolsters UK comms division

What's going on?

Schering-Plough UK & Ireland has recently established an in-house comms and public affairs division. Alan Kane is director of comms and PA, while Caroline Rattray is the company's first comms manager and is responsible for product PR. Further changes are in the offing.

Give me the history

Comms disciplines such as professional relations and PA were shared across a number of departments, but the plan now is to build a standalone comms function, which suggests that there are likely to be a few more changes as things move forward. Kane reports directly to UK general manager Gordon Coutts.

Hasn't the company just announced its results?

Yes, and good they were, too. Global first-quarter sales were up to £1.25bn.

The company's cholesterol portfolio, a joint venture with Merck that includes Vytorin and Zetia, doubled year on year to £264m.

Are these two drugs sold in the UK?

No, its cholesterol inhibitor here is Ezetrol. Globally, the company's core businesses are in allergy and hepatitis C treatments. In the UK, Schering-Plough targets prescribers and patients in three main sectors: immunology, cardiovascular and oncology.

Which PR agencies does the company use in the UK?

In immunology, Athena Medical PR works on its Remicade drug, while Chandler Chicco Agency has the account for Ezetrol. Ashley Communications has the remit for Schering-Plough's brain cancer treatment Temodal and ovarian cancer drug Caelyx. The latter is also used to treat breast cancer in the US.

New comms set-up, good results...so is everything rosy?

Things appear to be on the up. Schering-Plough says it is in 'turnaround' mode and admits it has recently been through 'interesting times'.

Ah - isn't that PR shorthand for 'dreadful times'?

Judge for yourself. Chairman and CEO Fred Hassan spoke this year of the need to reverse 'the negative sales momentum facing our company', which doesn't exactly sound like a medicine cabinet full of laughs. The group also had to pay £260m to the US government for failing to comply with manufacturing codes and submit to renewed scrutiny at two of its plants.

This dispute appears to have ended.

Further information www.schering-plough.com.

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