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Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Top Layoffs of 2007 in Pharmaceutical and Biotech Industry

2007 has been a rough year for a number of the pharmaceutical and biotech industry’s biggest players. Concerns about patent expirations, falling sales due to drug safety concerns, redundancy from acquisitions and a general need streamline operations contributed to these companies’ decisions to cut employees. Check out this list of the top five pharma and biotech layoffs of 2007 for more on the cuts and a look at what these companies are doing to turn things around.

1. Pfizer - 10,000 jobs

Without a doubt, the most talked-about layoffs of the year happened at Pfizer, where the world's largest drug developer announced in January that it would chop a staggering 10,000 jobs from its workforce. Jeffrey Kindler was picked as CEO of the struggling drug giant last summer in an attempt to turn the company's flagging fortunes around. Then came the stunning blow that was trocetrapib's failure in a Phase III trial. The therapy was designed to replace Lipitor, Pfizer's (and the world's) $12 billion-a-year bestselling drug, which goes off-patent in 2010.

To save money, Pfizer announced that it would streamline operations by closing three research centers in Michigan and two manufacturing plants while laying off 10,000 workers, 2,200 of which were sales people. Since then, Pfizer has been on a warpath to secure its pipeline from future threats, and with good reason; the company is faced with the loss of 41 percent of its revenue to generic competitors between 2010 and 2012. The company has taken a particular interest in biotech drugs , which are less susceptible to generic competition. Pfizer has laid bare its pipeline for analysts, invested $50 million in biotech start-ups, and created its own a biotherapeutics and bio-innovation center out in California.

2. AstraZeneca - 7,600 jobs

Back in January, AstraZeneca announced that it would cut 3,000 jobs as part of a three-year plan to streamline the company’s global supply chain and find $900 million in savings by 2010. In July, AstraZeneca more than doubled the planned cuts to include 7,600 employees, or about 11 percent of its workforce. The cuts were primarily to the company's European sales and marketing operations along with R&D in a variety of countries around the globe. Analysts regard the cuts as a smart move and evidence of a fundamentally strong company.

Despite strong quarterly earnings, the company said the cuts were necessary to prepare for the lean times coming years. AstraZeneca is facing generic competition for its heart drug Toprol XL and is also working to fill its pipeline after several disappointing finishes for its experimental therapies. The company has made a number of big acquisitions this year, including the massive $15.6 million buyout of MedImmune and a $400 million development deal with Silence Therapeutics in the hot RNAi field.

3. Bayer - 6,100 jobs

Last year Bayer defeated Merck KGaA in a bidding war for Schering, forking over $20 billion for the drugmaker. The acquisition left Bayer with some overlap, and the company axed 6,100 jobs in March as it integrated Schering into the fold. Half of those jobs were in Europe with about 1,000 pink slips going out in the U.S. Bayer cut 2,850 administrative posts, 1,400 R&D positions and 1,850 production jobs. By the end of next year, Bayer said it will reduce R&D costs by $210 million a year.

4. Johnson & Johnson - 5,000 jobs

In July Johnson & Johnson took the axe to its pharma division in a bid to cut up to $750 million in costs. Included in the cuts was a plan to reduce the company's workforce by four percent, or almost 5,000 employees. According to J&J, the cuts are designed to improve the company's cost structure and ensure profitable growth in the coming years. While J&J plans plans to continue investing in new technologies, it faces some significant patent losses among its current therapies. In addition, both J&J and Amgen have been embroiled in the anemia drug safety controversey, which has impacted sales of the company's best-selling drug Procrit. Medicare, which spends more money on anemia drugs than any other pharmaceutical, recently decided to limit the amount of anemia drugs that it will reimburse for.

Two of J&J’s biotechs, Alza and Scios, bore the brunt of the cuts. Acquired for $12 billion six years ago, J&J is closing Alza's Mountain View facility and will lay off 600 workers. The pharma giant is also largely ending the R&D efforts at Alza, which had been structured to tweak the pharma giant's therapies. Scios--which markets Natrecor--has already seen the pink slips fly and more cuts are expected. Two other J&J companies working in medical devices are also expected to undergo significant restructuring, related primarily to the problems the company has been having in the drug-eluting stent market.

5. GlaxoSmithKline - 5,000 jobs*

Count GlaxoSmithKline's Puerto Rican plant as an early Avandia casualty. The drug maker will close the factory in Cidra, Puerto Rico, and transfer production of the diabetes med (and its cousin Avandamet) to other plants. The 900-strong workforce in Cidra will be cut to 250 by year's end.

Of course, the Puerto Rican shutdown is just part of the cost-cutting pain at Glaxo. Yesterday, the company announced a big restructuring plan that will trim $1.4 billion in costs over the next four years and shrink its payroll by at least 5,000. Glaxo also plans to outsource manufacturing of its off-patent drugs, so some 40 percent of the job cuts will come in that sphere. Implementing the restructuring plan is expected to cost $3.1 billion.

6. Bristol-Myers Squibb - 4,800 jobs*

The long-awaited details on Bristol-Myers Squibb's job cuts have finally arrived. The company announced that it would cut more than 10 percent of its 43,000-person work force--roughly 4,800 jobs. Many positions being axed are related to operations, such as human resources, information technology and finance. Manufacturing will also take a serious hit; already the company has announced that it's closing a packaging facility in Colon, Panama, plus manufacturing facilities in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and Barcelona. So far, 1,300 employees have been given notice and an additional 3,500 workers will be cut by the end of the year.

According to the company's announcement, the cuts are part of BMS's overall strategy to "transform the company...into a next-generation BioPharma company that pairs the scale and resources of a mid-sized pharmaceutical company with the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative focus of a biotech startup." Sound familiar? BMS is divesting itself of its Massachusetts-based medical imaging division; it's also reviewing "strategic alternatives" for ConvaTec and Mead Johnson, two other nonpharmaceutical divisions.

7. Amgen - 2,600 jobs

For years, the world's biggest biotech could do no wrong. Big, rich and influential, Amgen set the mold for what smaller biotechs hoped to imitate as they aspired to join Amgen as one of a handful of Big Biotech companies. But recently the biotech has looked more like an aging Big Pharma company as anemia drug sales have been hammered by safety concerns and older therapies face new competition.

Inevitably, Amgen did what was necessary. Plagued by falling sales of its blockbuster anemia drugs Aranesp and Epogen, Amgen slashed about 14 percent of its workforce--up to 2,600 jobs--as part of a widespread restructuring aimed at slicing out a billion dollars in expenses. The restructuring includes closing of some facilities and reductions in various operating units. And much to Ireland's disappointment, Amgen said it would "postpone indefinitely" a planned €800 million manufacturing facility in County Cork as well.

*These job cut announcement occured after the date this report was originally published. BMS announced cuts on 12/6/07 and GSK on10/25/07.

Sources: FierceBiotech

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