Wyeth wields the axe again

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wyeth

Wyeth is to axe 1200 jobs in addition to the similar number it
earmarked for elimination only a month ago.

Company employees have been notified that positions will be affected "worldwide, across all different job functions​", it was reported in the PhiladelphiaEnquirer.​ The firm has already laid off 141 workers at its manufacturing and R&D facility in Pearl River, New York. ​The job cuts have come swiftly on the heels of a decision made by the firm at the end of March to terminate the positions of 1200 sales representatives in the US. Wyeth management are currently undertaking a company-wide evaluation with the aim of "transforming its business and reducing spending​." As part of this, the drug giant is pursuing a cost-cutting strategy to eradicate up to six per cent of its global workforce by the end of the year, with a further four per cent to be cut by 2010, to the tune of a total of 5,000 jobs over three years. Prior to the announcement of the cost-cutting drive, which was first revealed in March, Wyeth employed over 50,000 staff, with over half of these being based in the US. ​The firm is being motivated to make company-wide changes after a series of setbacks it has experienced in getting four of its drugs to market over the past year. Since the beginning of 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has delayed granting regulatory approval for Wyeth's schizophrenia drug bifeprunox; Pristiq (desvenlafaxine), a treatment for depression and menopause symptoms (which has now been approved); Viviant (bazedoxifene), a drug to treat bone loss; and anti-constipation medicine methylnaltrexone. Moreover, its kidney cancer treatment Torisel (temsirolimus) and Lybrel (levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol), a contraceptive, also experienced regulatory delays before finally being approved. Even short delays in getting drugs to market can cost pharmaceutical firms millions of dollars in expected earnings. Meanwhile, Wyeth is also feeling the heat from generic competition. In December, Teva Pharmaceutical unexpectedly released a generic version of Wyeth's Protonix (pantoprazole) heartburn medicine, which threatens to severely erode the drugs's revenue, which for the first nine months of 2007 raked in $1.45bn. Teva has now temporarily frozen sales of its copy cat version until the two firms come to an agreement over a dispute over the Protonix patent. Moreover, this year, Wyeth's biggest selling medicine, the antidepressant Effexor (venlafaxine), is also expected to have to stave off generic competition when Sun Pharmaceutical Industries launches a tablet version of the drug. Sales of Effexor, which were $2.83bn for the first nine months of 2007, are expected to be substantially stunted as a result. Meanwhile, it has also just been announced that company senior vice president and president of Wyeth Research, Robert Ruffolo, will retire later this year after working for the firm since 2000. He will be replaced by Mikael Dohlsten, who joins the firm from Boehringer Ingelheim, where he was executive vice president of the company's Pharmaceutical Research and Development/Medicine division, overseeing these operations in the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Austria and Japan. Commenting on Ruffolo's intended departure from the firm, company president and CEO Bernard Poussot described him as "the driving force of our R&D progress​" and said that "his legacy will be our pipeline… he has helped position our company for future growth through robust research and development programs in oncology, women's health, vaccines, inflammation, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and neuroscience - led by our multi-platform effort in Alzheimer's​".

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