Valeant Pharmaceuticals CEO: 'It's been a challenging 15 months, but we've made great progress'

  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer sat down with Joe Papa, the new CEO of the controversial Valeant Pharmaceuticals, to catch up on the drug maker's turnaround.
  • Papa said his executive team has worked hard to reduce Valeant's debt, put pricing policies in place and make the stock more attractive to shareholders.
  • Papa also offered a response to the growing rift between business leaders and President Donald Trump.

Overhauling the highly controversial Valeant Pharmaceuticals hasn't been easy, new CEO Joe Papa acknowledged on Wednesday.

"I will say, first and foremost, it's been a challenging 15 months, to be clear. But we've made great progress as a team," Papa told "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer.

Papa stepped into his role at a time of great scrutiny for Valeant. The company was fielding criticism for an array of issues including price gouging and accounting irregularities.

The last time Papa was interview on "Mad Money" in May 2016, the drugmaker's stock had dropped 85 percent in the past year on the sordid revelations.

But since Papa took over as CEO, the company has made some strides, selling off a dozen non-core assets, turning its focus to research and development and tackling its massive debt.

Shares of Valeant have recovered steadily since, settling just above $14 as of Wednesday's closing bell.

"We've been dealing with all the issues," Papa told Cramer. "In the time period since [the] first quarter of 2016 to now ... we paid back $500 million more toward $4.8 billion of debt reduction in less than a year or so ahead of what we said."

Valeant has also taken several products in its pipeline to market including Relistor, which helps mitigate the effects of opioid medication. Sales of Relistor are up 33 percent year over year, Papa said.

The CEO also said that he followed through on his promise to stem the outcry surrounding Valeant's alleged price gouging.

"Within the first two weeks I joined the company, we started what I would refer to as a Patient Access and Pricing Committee. That Patient Access and Pricing Committee looked at making sure, as a primary objective, that patients had access to Valeant products. We've done that. That's well underway," Papa said.

Papa even said that Pershing Square chief Bill Ackman, who famously sold his stake in Valeant and sent the stock into a nosedive, has been advising him on how to steer the company forward.

"Bill's been helpful to me as I thought through what we were doing with the company, certainly, since I joined," Papa said, adding that Ackman selling his position was his decision.

Looking forward, Papa sees high potential in Valeant's Bausch & Lomb branch, which comprises 56 percent of the drugmaker's total business, its Salix business, which specializes in gastrointestinal treatments, and its budding dermatology arm.

"I believe that the new products we have are going to generate the returns for our shareholders that we need to generate," Papa said. "We feel really good about what we're doing. We have zero debt maturities between now and 2020, so that gives you a real chance to invest in the business."

And as the rift between top CEOs like Merck's Ken Frazier and President Donald Trump grows, Papa offered a comment on Valeant's place in the controversy.

"At Valeant, racism and discrimination, there's no place for that in our company," the CEO said. "And what we're trying, really, to do and our focus is to make sure that we have quality health care outcomes for patients all over the world."

Watch Joe Papa's full interview here:

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