Struggling Daiichi plots another 1,000-plus job cuts in U.S.

Daiichi Sankyo's Parsippany, NJ, facility

More job-cutting pain is on the way at embattled Daiichi Sankyo. The Japan-based drugmaker will cut up to 1,200 jobs in the U.S., about half its workforce in its stateside subsidiary, Nikkei reports. The announcement follows a series of layoffs earlier this year at its Parsippany, NJ, operations.

The cuts are part of a reorientation toward specialty drugs--such as its new clot-fighting pill Savaysa and the constipation drug Movantik, marketed with AstraZeneca ($AZN)--and away from primary care meds, the company says. The company's biggest seller, the blood pressure drug Benicar, loses its exclusive lock on the market in the coming months; its $2.6 billion in 2014 sales accounted for more than one-quarter of Daiichi's revenue.

The latest round, pegged at 1,000 to 1,200 job cuts, won't hit its R&D operations or its Bethlehem, PA, packaging plant, Daiichi said in a statement. The cuts will take place at its Parsippany, NJ, commercial headquarters and at other locations across the country. Daiichi's field salesforce will also be hit. The layoffs will be complete by the end of March.

Earlier this year, Daiichi began a job-cutting drive by reducing its commercial headquarters staff by 16%, with plans to follow up with field-force layoffs. Those cuts coincided with the loss of patent protection on the diabetes and cholesterol drug Welchol, a $500 million-plus seller for Daiichi.

"As we face the loss of exclusivity in the coming year of our largest product, we also look ahead to great opportunities with our emerging portfolio in cardiology, oncology, fibromyalgia and pain relief," said Ken Keller, president of Daiichi's U.S. commercial business. "This calls for us to restructure our organization into a smaller, highly targeted and efficient operating model, with a greater emphasis on customer-facing roles."

The company has its work cut out for it with Savaysa, fourth to a next-gen anticoagulant market that already includes heavyweights Xarelto, from Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Bayer; Boehringer Ingelheim's Pradaxa; and Pfizer ($PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Eliquis. Analysts figure Daiichi's entrant can built up to $220 million by 2019, but that's not nearly enough to bridge the Benicar gap.

The company paid $200 million earlier this year to help AstraZeneca launch Movantik, a constipation med, and just last month, snapped up an exclusive license to market AstraZeneca's FluMist Quadrivalent vaccine in Japan.

- see the Daiichi release

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