AstraZeneca puts 7,300 jobs on the chopping block

The analyst talk was almost half right. AstraZeneca ($AZN) is sharpening its jobs ax for a new round of layoffs. But the number of jobs to be cut isn't 3,000. It's 7,300. Half of the cuts will hit sales and administration, with the other half divided between R&D (2,200) and operations (1,350). With the layoffs and other cost cuts, AstraZeneca hopes to slice $1.6 billion off its annual costs.

"We are acutely aware that these decisions will affect many employees," CEO David Brennan (photo) said, "and we will strive to support our people as we implement these changes." He's had to utter similar words repeatedly in recent years; the company has announced a series of restructuring moves that shrank the company payrolls by at least 21,000. Most recently, AstraZeneca said it would shed 1,150 more jobs from its U.S. sales operations. Currently, it has 61,000 employees.

Once again, it's sales and administration that bears the brunt of the job cuts, with 3,750 positions headed for extinction. In its statement about the layoffs, AstraZeneca says it's planning to continue simplifying its commercial organization; already, its sales regions have been cut to three from 5, with smaller countries grouped together so support services can be shared. Digital marketing will be ramped up further. And just as it did with its Nexium sales force, the company plans to augment smaller groups of reps with call centers that can take doctors' orders for free samples, answer healthcare providers' drug questions, and the like.

- read the AstraZeneca release

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