Top 10 pharma layoffs of 2011

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by Ryan McBride and Mark Hollmer

The general upheaval in the pharma business kept employees on edge and HR departments busy drafting layoff notices last year. Drugmakers slashed thousands of jobs in 2011 to withstand the monumental challenges and dangers they face, and our annual layoff report provides key figures, dates and themes related to the industry's top 10 layoffs.

Merck, as FiercePharma reported late last month, led the pack of drug companies that let go workers by the thousands in 2011. The U.S. drug giant's cutbacks were indicative of the problems that the industry faces: a bevy of big-brand drug patent expirations and a dire need to bring expenses in line with business growth. At the same time, the emergence of pharma workforces in Asia have provided an opening for drugmakers to shift duties from sites in the U.S. and Europe to lower-cost areas in China and India, for example. Check out the item on Novartis' layoffs for more on that theme.

This report's brief history of layoffs definitely repeats lessons of the past, such as those gleaned in 2009 when the Merck/Schering-Plough and Pfizer/Wyeth mergers triggered enormous workforce reductions. Sanofi kept the theme of merger-related layoffs alive in 2011 with cuts associated with its blockbuster buyout of Genzyme last year, but, of course, many of the French drug giant's former workers have generic threats to blood thinner Plavix to blame for their pink slips.

1. Merck ($MRK)

2. Pfizer ($PFE)

3. Novartis ($NVS)    

4. Abbott Laboratories ($ABT)

5. AstraZeneca ($AZN)

6. Teva Pharmaceutical ($TEVA)

7. Sanofi ($SNY)

8. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)

9. Eisai

10. Bayer