Shares in Canadian biopharmaceutical group QLT were on a downward trend yesterday after the group announced an operational reshuffle - including the sale of its US operations - in order to boost shareholder value.

The company said it plans to divest QLT USA, including the prostate cancer line Eligard (leuprolide), the acne treatment Aczone (dapsone), and the drug delivery system Atrigel, either as a job lot or in a series of transactions, the proceeds of which will help to pay off some of its debt.

Furthermore, the firm wants to sell the land and buildings of its current headquarters in Vancouver, and says initial job losses will be around 115, although it admits the toll will increase as future assets are divested.

The move, which follows a ‘comprehensive business review’, falls in line with QLT’s desire to streamline its business activities so that it can focus on its Visudyne (verteporfin) sight drug franchise as well as clinical development programs related to the punctal plug delivery and photodynamic therapy technologies.

Boosting efficiency
“I look forward to increasing our operational efficiency and driving our business forward with a clear focus on these three key programs,” commented Bob Butchofsky, president and chief executive. “We are focused on achieving these important clinical milestones and are excited about their potential to create significant shareholder value,” he added.

Meanwhile, the group announced that its partner Novartis has reported that global sales of Visudyne were down 40.5% to $45.5 million for the fourth quarter and 39.3% to $214.9 million for the full year ended December 31, 2007, on increased competition within the market.