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Published on 28 January 2008

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Wyeth “weighing up workforce cuts of 10%”

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US-based drug firm Wyeth may be on the verge of announcing major job cuts as patent expiries and delayed product launches take their toll, according to a newspaper report.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said managers were told recently that 10% of 50,000 jobs worldwide could be cut over the next three years.

Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus confirmed that discussions had occurred, but said: “Nothing is etched in stone, and it is premature to discuss how many or which positions will be affected or how the reductions will be achieved.”

He said the process “is in its preliminary stages, and we are evaluating a number of options, including workforce reductions”.

Mr Petkus said Wyeth would “share the details of this initiative with employees toward the end of March”.

One problem that has caused re-evaluation of future options is the generic threat to the firm’s big-selling antiulcerant Protonix® (pantoprazole).

Wyeth is embroiled in a dispute with Teva, which began shipping its version of the drug on 21 December but agreed to a 30-day halt just two days later to give the companies time to settle an ongoing patent dispute. That ceasefire has been extended until 31 January.

Wyeth has also been facing regulatory difficulties.

August saw the FDA issue an action letter for bifeprunox, an investigational compound for schizophrenia, while a month earlier Pristiq® (desvenlafaxine), for depression and the symptoms of menopause, only received an approvable letter.

News of possible job cuts caused barely a murmur among analysts, with many following the view that workforce reductions and plant closures are becoming a way of life.

The likes of GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and AstraZeneca have all recently announced major restructuring plans.

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