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AstraZeneca’s Brennan Defends Strategy Amid Questions

David Brennan, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
David Brennan, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

April 13 (Bloomberg) -- David Brennan said his leadership as chief executive officer of London-based drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc remains steady amid reports that some shareholders are seeking a change.

“I’m plugged in, my role hasn’t changed a bit,” Brennan said in an interview in Boston, where he was attending the annual meeting of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “I read and hear and see lots of things, but we’re here trying to change policy, make good decisions and execute our strategy.”

AstraZeneca is looking to replace revenue lost when patent protection on its best-selling medicines, including the ulcer treatment Nexium and antipsychotic medication Seroquel, expires over the next four years. The drugs accounted for more than $10.2 billion in sales last year. Analysts and investors have questioned whether Brennan’s stated plan to pursue smaller deals and avoid large mergers will be enough to turn around the drugmaker, the U.K.’s second-largest.

Brennan, 58, who has been CEO since January 2006, said that a merger wouldn’t be necessary to make major changes at the company.

“If it’s about restructuring, we can do that without a big deal,” he said during the interview yesterday. “Maybe somebody sees something different, but spending more money does not have a linear increase in the number of returns you get from a research and development perspective.”

Seeking Deals

The company’s head of global research and development, Martin Mackay, said on April 3 that a partnership the company had formed with Thousand Oaks, California-based Amgen Inc., the world’s largest biotechnology company, on inflammatory disease drugs was “not enough.”

“Building a pipeline is our No. 1 priority,” Mackay said. “A big piece of that is doing deals.”

The competition for potential partners is “tough” and AstraZeneca is continuing talks with a number of companies, Mackay said then. “We’ve brought in new leaders and made cuts we needed to make our organization ready for the competitive period we’re coming into.”

AstraZeneca has announced eight acquisition or partnership deals since January 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Drew Armstrong in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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