Merck raises flag on U.S. layoff plans

Merck ($MRK) warns U.S. workers: Prepare for layoffs. As Pharmalot reports, Merck's top U.S. human health official signed a memo notifying employees in several departments that jobs will be cut, because simply eliminating vacant positions won't deliver the kind of numbers top management is seeking.

Among the targeted departments are marketing and two specialty sales groups, neuropsychiatric and women's healthcare. That may be unsurprising, given the way pharma has singled out marketing and sales for cost cuts over the past several years. But other departments, namely Managed Markets & Policy and Strategy & Commercial Model Innovation, are also on the chopping block.

One consolation: The uncertainty will be brief, U.S. Market President Mark Timney said in the memo. "We will move quickly in order to minimize disruption," Timney stated. "The restructuring exercise within the select areas will be completed and affected employees will be informed by the end of October 2011." The company is also giving employees within the targeted departments the opportunity to volunteer "and be considered for separation," the memo says. You can check out the rest of the document at Pharmalot.

Timney acknowledges Merck has already shrunk its workforce in the U.S. considerably over the past few years. That's no surprise to anyone. Between garden-variety cost-cutting and merger-integration cuts after the Schering-Plough deal, Merck has cut its workforce by thousands around the world: 8,400 cuts announced in 2008, another 15,000 announced along with the Schering merger, and up to 13,000 disclosed earlier this summer (although some of those are held over from the previously announced 15,000).

- see the Pharmalot news