AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive David Brennan is to step down at the start of June.
Brennan’s abrupt exit after six years running Britain’s second-biggest drugmaker, follows rising investor discontent at the company’s performance.
It has suffered repeated setbacks in developing new drugs, first quarter sales fell 11 percent and underlying earnings dropped 19 percent. That led the group to cut its full-year profit forecast.
It needs to find new sources of growth as multiple drug patents expire. Investors are concerned about its long-term prospects given a complete reliance on prescription medicines at a time when rivals have diversified.
AstraZeneca has recently stepped up its pace of deal-making, to bring in more promising new drugs from other companies, but Brennan has been under fire from investors for not acting sooner.
He will be replaced on an interim basis by Chief Financial Officer Simon Lowth while a permanent successor from inside or outside the company is found, AstraZeneca said.