Lantheus Medical Imaging CEO strategizes during BMS transition

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Don Kiepert, president and CEO of Lantheus Medical Imaging  

The former Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) Medical Imaging has become Lantheus Medical Imaging, through the acquisition of the BMS unit by Avista Capital Partners in January for $525 million, and the new CEO spoke with Cardiovascular Business News about the transition and the company’s plans future plans.

Don Kiepert, president and CEO of Lantheus, told Cardiovascular Business News that the sale BMS Medical Imaging was an isolated incident, and not indicative of the rest of the market.
“BMS made a decision to monetize this division to create some revenue, or cash flow, that they could invest in their pharmaceutical company and the oncology program. As it relates to BMS, it was a specific strategic decision that they made, but I don’t believe it’s a trend that could occur within other companies,” Kiepert said.

He listed the three strategic imperatives for Lantheus are to:

1. “Maximize the value of the existing portfolio, while managing the threat of the generic threat;”
2. “Bring in other technologies through in-licensing or acquisition approaches;” and
3. “Invest in our pipeline, specifically our PET perfusion agent that it is currently in Phase I clinical trials. By the end of the calendar year, we expect to be in Phase II.”

One of the company’s more successful products under BMS was Cardiolite Kit for the Preparation of Technetium Tc99m Sestamibi for Injection. However, earlier this month, Covidien was granted tentative approval for its abbreviated new drug application for a generic version of the Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi Injection.

The North Billerica, Mass.-based Lantheus recognized this potential competition. 

“A generic form of Sestamibi is likely to be on the market in the second half of this year. As a result, our current focus deals with a lot of planning and developing a brand-value campaign around Cardiolite that we are launching with our sales organization. This is a top area of priority for us right now,” Kiepert said.  

The company said it will continue to provide medical imaging products for nuclear and ultrasound cardiovascular diagnostic imaging procedures, including Cardiolite, Definity and TechneLite, said Avista.

“Definity is also a very important product in our portfolio. We think that there’s potential growth for this product to grow because it has been extremely well received by the cardiology community. We are looking at a new marketing campaign to complete the sales process for Definity,” Kiepert said.

However, in last quarter of 2007, the FDA added a black box warning to Definity, due to reports of “deaths and serious cardiopulmonary reactions,” according to the agency.
“With the black box, there’s still work that we can do. There is still a concerted effort on the part of the thought leaders in the industry, who have been writing letters and meeting with the FDA, stressing that Definity and these types of contrast agents are safe. It is too soon to tell the end result of those efforts,” Kiepert commented.   
In addition to Definity, he also pointed to the company’s generator program, “a very reliable product and necessary for the continuation of nuclear medicine.”

In focusing on the transition from BMS to Lantheus, Kiepert stressed that the “same people are running the company.” One addition to the management team was Phillip Lockwood, who was appointed vice president of human resources, having previously served as vice president of human resources at Indevus Pharmaceuticals.

He also said that Lantheus does not plan to initiate any consolidation, or job cuts, at this point. “Prior to the sale of the company, in early 2007, BMS had instituted some programs that had reduced head count. At this point, we are not planning to begin a program around layoffs,” Kiepert explained.

The privately held Lantheus “hopes to build on the heritage that the company established under BMS, and we’ll continue to focus on cardiac imaging, but we’ll also be looking at other diagnostic approaches, such as oncology, neurology, or others,” Kiepert concluded.