Biogen, targeting $1B in savings, employs 300 fewer staffers in Massachusetts than it did in September: report

In the wake of a $1 billion cost-cutting scheme unveiled in March, Biogen’s head count is dropping in Massachusetts. Still, the company is keeping mum on the exact number of staffers let go in the aftermath of its ill-fated Alzheimer’s disease drug launch.

Biogen today employs 301 fewer people in Massachusetts than it did in September, the Boston Business Journal reports. Specifically, the company employed 2,469 staffers in the Bay State as of July, versus 2,770 in late September, Biogen told the publication.

Biogen warned the job cuts were coming. In March, the company said it planned to “substantially eliminate” its commercial infrastructure for the controversial Alzheimer’s med Aduhelm. In all, the company has laid out a cost-saving target of $1 billion.

At the same time, the company announced it was bidding adieu to CEO Michel Vounatsos, who’s helmed the big biotech for more than five years.

"This effort has included the elimination of some roles,” a Biogen spokesperson told Fierce Pharma over email. “These changes will help the company remain flexible so additional investments can be made in our pipeline and other strategic initiatives,” she said, adding that Biogen’s “colleagues have been eligible for severance and support services as they transition out of the company.”

Earlier this year, the company told Fierce Pharma it had started sending out layoff letters to some employees in the U.S. At the time, Biogen wouldn’t share any details on the number of affected staffers, with a spokesperson indicating that the number was in flux. That’s because some employees resigned, while others were eligible to apply for other positions, she explained.

Back in December, meanwhile, Stat reported that the company was planning to lay off as many as 1,000 employees.

At the end of last year, Biogen employed around 9,610 people worldwide, an annual Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows.

The company has been fighting an uphill battle ever since Aduhelm’s accelerated approval in the U.S. last June. The med once carried blockbuster sales expectations, but it was quickly mired in questions about safety and efficacy, plus Biogen’s reportedly questionable interactions with the FDA in the lead up to the green light.

What hope remained to salvage Aduhelm’s launch largely evaporated in April when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) stuck by its draft decision to limit coverage of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug—and other amyloid-fighting antibodies like it—to patients enrolled in randomized, controlled clinical trials. The drug generated just $2.8 million in 2022’s first quarter.

That CMS decision has bled over into the clinic, too. Last month, Biogen said it was scrapping its observational ICARE AD trial, which was meant to garner real-world data on Aduhelm’s use in the U.S. Biogen blamed the national coverage policy, stating, “it is expected there will be limited [Aduhelm] prescription and usage in routine clinical practice, making the study not feasible for enrollment."