Merck to lay off 500 workers around the U.S. in continued shift to innovative meds

Merck
Merck is eliminating 500 positions around the U.S. as it shifts its focus to innovative drugs. (Merck)

Merck, like many of its Big Pharma peers, is working to focus more on innovative drugs. But as part of that ongoing shift, the company is eliminating 500 positions nationwide.

The company is cutting jobs in “select sales and headquarters commercial teams" effective Jan. 3, spokeswoman Pamela Eisele told FiercePharma. Affected employees can apply for positions elsewhere in the company, Eisele said, and those who are ultimately let go will be offered a “comprehensive separation package.” 

Even as it’s cutting some jobs, Merck is “adding new U.S. jobs in growth areas, such as oncology, based on changes in our portfolio," Eisele said. The move is “part of ongoing company-wide efforts to sharpen Merck’s focus on innovative research and development that addresses significant unmet medical needs and on our best opportunities for growth."

The drugmaker Thursday filed a WARN notice in Pennsylvania, where the jobs are based for administrative purposes. Merck, whose global base is in New Jersey, has its U.S. headquarters in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania.

RELATED: Merck, citing 'ebb and flow' in priorities, plots 1,800 sales layoffs and new chronic care focus 

Merck is staffing up in oncology and other innovative fields at a time when diabetes and other businesses struggle from continued competition and pricing pressure. This week’s cuts come after the company in 2017 chopped 1,800 jobs when it eliminated three sales teams and created a new chronic care sales force.  

Oncology drug Keytruda was Merck's top product by sales last year, generating $7.2 billion. But it's not done growing yet; an Evaluate report (PDF) predicts Keytruda will be the industry's top drug in 2024, with sales of $17 billion that year.

The company employed 69,000 people at the end of last year. In the U.S., Merck employed 25,400 people at the end of 2018. 

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