Valeant Pharmaceuticals has named former finance chief Howard Schiller as interim CEO while the troubled drug company's chairman and chief executive remains hospitalized with severe pneumonia.
Valeant said Tuesday that J. Michael Pearson is still on medical leave, and it did not know when he would return. Schiller will become interim CEO immediately and Robert Ingram, the company's lead independent director, will serve as interim board chairman.
Valeant, based in Laval, Quebec, announced Pearson's hospitalization late last month. It then said last week that three executives, a group that did not include Schiller or Ingram, would take over leadership in his absence. The company had named Schiller and Ingram to a board-created committee charged with overseeing and supporting the CEO position.
Schiller served as the company's chief financial officer from the end of 2011 through June 2015 and is currently a member of the company's board.
Before Valeant, Schiller spent 24 years at the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. He served as a chief operating officer and was responsible for health care and consumer products, among other businesses in the company's investment banking division.
Ingram has been on Valeant's board since 2010 and previously served as chairman for a few months at the start of 2011. Valeant's interim chairman is a partner at the venture capital firm Hatteras Venture Partners and also serves as a special adviser to the CEO of British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc.
Pearson, 56, joined Valeant in 2008 after a 23-year career with the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., for which he served as head of its global pharmaceutical practice.
He helped build a relatively small business that made generic drugs and chronic illness treatments into a major pharmaceutical company through a string of acquisitions. Valeant, formerly based in California, combined with Wellbutrin XL maker Biovail in 2010 to form Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. Its sales climbed from $2.46 billion in 2011 to an expected $10.4 billion to $10.5 billion for this year.
Valeant has taken criticism for its practice of buying other pharmaceutical companies, slashing jobs and then hiking the price of the drugs it acquires. Congress, in particular, has targeted the Canadian drugmaker, which also has received multiple subpoenas from federal prosecutors seeking information about drug pricing, a topic of growing concern to U.S. patients and politicians.
The company has taken so much heat that it added to its website an archive of rebuttals to allegations that have been made against it.
Valeant also drew scrutiny earlier this year for its relationship with the drug distributor Philidor, amid allegations that Philidor created a network of "phantom pharmacies" to steer pharmacy benefit managers toward Valeant's more-expensive drugs over cheaper alternatives. Valeant cut ties with Philidor in October and later announced a distribution deal with the drugstore chain Walgreens for its dermatology and ophthalmology treatments.
Last month, Valeant slashed its expectations for the fourth quarter and all of 2015 and issued a guarded outlook for 2016 mainly due to lower sales.
U.S.-traded shares of Valeant climbed nearly 2 percent, or $1.89, to $102.77 Wednesday morning while broader markets dropped more than 1 percent. The stock had hit an all-time high price of $263.81 last summer before tumbling for much of the fall.
Associated Press writer Joseph Pisani in New York contributed to this story. Murphy reported from Indianapolis.