Germany next on AstraZeneca's hit list

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Astrazeneca

Pharma giant AstraZeneca has announced the latest site to fall
victim to its restructuring plans announced in February, with the
company dropping one of its German plants and axing hundreds more
jobs.

The Plankstadt manufacturing facility, only a few months ago noted in the company's annual report as one of its "principal manufacturing facilities​", is due to be shelved by the end of 2009 either by closure or sale. The plant, used for bulk production, formulation and packing, currently employs 400 people who will be the latest casualties of AstraZeneca's restructuring plans announced earlier this year, which included a 3,000-strong workforce cull. "We operate in an increasingly challenging environment​," managing director of AstraZeneca, Germany, Mark Fladrich, said in a statement. "The measure…is part of a global drive to increase the efficiency of our global supply chains." ​ Only a few years ago new tablet production facilities became operational at the Plankstadt site, following a $35m (€25.6m) investment. The expansion at the plant was intended to accommodate production of the company's prostate cancer drug Casodex (bicalutamide) - patent protection of which expires early next year - and Zomig (zolmitriptan), patent expiries for which begin in 2013. Other products currently manufactured at the plant include Crestor (rosuvastatin) for the treatment of high cholesterol and Tenormin (atenolol) for high blood pressure. Other sites affected by the increased efficiency plans so far have included the Macclesfield, UK plant (where 700 jobs were lost in the first swathe of cuts) and the Södertälje facility near Stockholm, Sweden (850 jobs going on top of 450 already announced to be lost this year in the country). A source at AstraZeneca also speculated that the company's US operations could be in for some trimming down in the near future As well as the jobs in production, over 500 jobs are also to be lost in AstraZeneca's German sales and marketing force following the failure of some of the company's development projects to reach market, and the impact of "growing pressure on physicians to prescribe patients older generic substances instead of innovative treatments."​ AstraZeneca are by no means the only big pharma scrambling to protect themselves in the face of generic competition and imminent patent expiries. 'Restructuring' seems to be the buzzword of choice in the pharma industry at the moment, with consolidation, plant closures and job cuts an unnervingly regular occurrence. As well as AstraZeneca's latest job cuts, Sanofi last month announced plans to shut its Irish over-the-counter (OTC) product manufacturing facility by the end of the year, and Bayer Healthcare confirmed the loss of almost 2,000 jobs in the fallout following Bayer's acquisition of Schering last year. Although a sizeable chunk of the planned 3,000 job losses announced by AstraZeneca in February have now been detailed, there are still a number as yet unaccounted for. With production facilities located in the US, Australia, France, Italy, Japan and Puerto Rico yet to be significantly touched by the company's push to increase efficiency and drive down costs, it would be understandable if employees were beginning to feel a little anxious.

Related topics: Ingredients

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