AstraZeneca employees fight layoffs in India as drugmaker shifts 'strategic priorities'

Another major pharma company is downsizing its sales and marketing presence in India. This time, though, the staffers are publicly pushing back.

Fifty-one AstraZeneca sales staffers in the company’s primary care division in India are fighting what they describe as unlawful terminations, The Hindu reports.

AZ has decided to lay off 103 employees in the group, according to The Hindu. About half, 51, refused the company’s voluntary retirement offer but were forced out anyway, the local newspaper said.

An unnamed staffer and a representative from a local sales rep association argued that AZ’s move was illegal under India’s labor laws because AZ let them go without formal permission from authorities, according to The Hindu.

The division handled two drugs, beta blocker Betaloc and Imdur, which is used for heart-related chest pain, according to The Hindu.

In a statement to Fierce Pharma, AstraZeneca attributed the decision to its evolving “strategic priorities.”

“We are ensuring that the transition is smooth and contributions made by our employees over time are appropriately reflected in the separation scheme,” AZ said in the statement.

With the cuts, AZ joins a growing list of pharma companies that have slimmed down in India in recent years. French pharma giant Sanofi laid off about 800 workers at two vaccine manufacturing sites in Medchal and Muppireddypally near Hyderabad, Reuters reported in January.

Last year, Novartis cut about 400 jobs in India after reaching a distribution pact with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories on some established medicines.

In two rounds of layoffs last year related to digitalization of sales and marketing efforts, Pfizer chopped 200 sales roles in India, and GSK slashed 150 positions from its consumer trade channel.