Another year of cuts as layoffs hit 50,000

Once again, one of the biggest stories of the year is all about shrinkage. By the end of November, drugmakers had cut more than 50,000 people from their payrolls. Big mergers claimed thousands of jobs as companies sought to wring costs from their combined operations. Sales forces were hit by delayed approvals and generic competition. And some companies--Bristol-Myers Squibb, for instance, which is cutting 840--simply tightened their belts across the board.

AstraZeneca started the year with the announcement that it would slash 8,000 jobs company-wide, including 4,450 in sales, marketing and administration. Roche announced it would cut 4,800 jobs and lose another to reshuffling, with a total of 6,300 positions affected, 2,650 of them in sales and marketing because of a drug-development delay. Abbott Laboratories announced 3,000 cuts; Bayer said it would cut back by 4,500 in established markets as it staffed up by 2,500 in other spots, particularly Asia.

Then there were the job cuts particular to sales. Sanofi-Aventis reduced head count by 1,700, wielding the axe in early December. Takeda Pharmaceutical announced 1,400 sales cuts in the U.S. because of generic competition for blockbuster diabetes drug Actos. And Novartis said it would cut 1,400 from its sales force.

That Pfizer was shrinking payrolls as it brings Wyeth operations into the fold wasn't a surprise; the company detailed plans to shut down and consolidate manufacturing and R&D as part of its bid to cut 15 percent, or about 19,500 jobs from the combined company. At the same time, Merck was working to shutter eight plants and eight R&D sites as it continued with its plans to shave 16,500 from its workforce. What did come as a surprise was Pfizer's late fall announcement that its post-merger job cuts would end up exceeding its previous goals.

At year's end, industry observers were predicting more job cuts to come. Who's next?

Special Report: The Top 10 Layoffs of 2010