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Merger could breathe new life into Mylan

The planned merger of Mylan and Pfizer’s off-patent drug business represents the end of an era. Army buddies Milan “Mike” Puskar and Don Panoz started Mylan in 1961 selling pharmaceuticals in White Sulphur Springs.

As the generic drug business took hold, Mylan became one of the biggest players in the industry, but it was an uphill battle.  Puskar sometimes paid the bills with Mylan stock because he was short on cash.

The company moved its corporate headquarters to near Pittsburgh, but kept its large Morgantown operation.  Puskar stepped down as chairman of the board in 2009.

While Mylan grew to a global corporation with more than 7,500 products and a workforce of 35,000 people, the last few years have been difficult.  As Bloomberg News reported, “Mylan has struggled in the face of declining prices for generic drugs, manufacturing issues at a key plant and legal questions about the company’s alleged involvement in a price-fixing conspiracy with other drug makers.”

Additionally, in 2016 CEO Heather Bresch was grilled during a highly publicized House Oversight Committee hearing over a 550 percent increase in the price of the lifesaving EpiPen between 2007 and 2016.

Bresch will not be staying with the new company following the merger. Bresch, who is the daughter of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), has been with the company since 1992, and CEO since 2012.

Mylan’s stock has plummeted. Five years ago, the stock was selling for $76 a share, but by this summer it had dropped to below $18.  The stock saw a small bump with the announced merger.

Officials with both companies are optimistic about the prospects of the new company. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Pfizer and Mylan are betting that combining Pfizer’s off-patent business, called Upjohn, with Mylan—known for the EpiPen emergency allergy shot—will provide a pathway to reignite sales growth.”

The new company will be re-named and rebranded, so the Mylan name will apparently disappear. From a sentimental perspective that’s sad, since Mike Puskar built the company and guided it to become a world leader in pharmaceutical sales.

The company has been looking for a partner to revitalize sales and improve its market position.  “Cost synergies and swift debt reduction may create a more agile company, making it a win-win,” said Curt Wanek of Bloomberg Intelligence.

It’s unclear how the merger will impact Mylan’s Morgantown operation.  Last year, Mylan announced it was reducing the workforce at the Morgantown plant by 15 percent, from about 3,500 workers down to 3,000.

While the door may be closing on the Mylan brand, the hope is that the merger will open a new door of opportunity for the struggling drug manufacturer that could ultimately be good for company’s business in Morgantown and elsewhere.




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