U.S. drugmakers chop fewer jobs this year despite headwinds

U.S. drugmakers announced 5,494 job cuts to date in 2017, far short of the 7,001 cuts at this point last year.

Even as the drug industry faces a host of growth-stunting challenges, a new report highlights some positive news from an employment point of view. U.S. pharma firms terminated fewer employees this year than at the same point in 2016, according to the analysis.

Outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas tallied U.S. drug companies’ downsizing plans, reporting late last week that the industry has disclosed 5,494 cuts so far in 2017. That’s significantly shy of the 7,001 cuts at this point last year.

The U.S. pharma industry also added 5,788 jobs by the end of August, according to the firm. Of course, the report only includes U.S. drug companies, which make up a portion of the global drugs business.

One such U.S. employer to execute a round of cuts this year was Amgen, which started a reorganization in March said to affect 500 staffers in Thousand Oaks, California.

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The news comes as challenges such as pricing continue to reshape the pharma industry, dealing particular damage to generics firms and in competitive therapeutic areas such as diabetes. Around the world, several companies with a focus in those areas have had to downsize lately.

Last month, embattled Teva, an Israeli company, announced more layoffs than the entire U.S. drugs business has in 2017 as generics pricing and other problems mount against that drugmaker. The company said it’d eliminate 7,000 jobs and close 15 manufacturing plants by the end of 2018.

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Elsewhere around the world, Switzerland's Novartis plus Allergan and Endo International, both based in Ireland, are among the companies to have disclosed their own layoffs this year.

All told last year, five major drugmakers downsized while three added jobs, according to an August report from EP Vantage. Fresh off an M&A spree, Mylan said it’d terminate up to 10% of its global workforce back in December, potentially affecting 3,500 people. The U.K.’s AstraZeneca followed that up by chopping 700 positions in the U.S.

On the flip side, AbbVie boosted its employee base by 7% last year, according to the analysis.