Well, the layoffs may not be massive, but they're still layoffs. Just a week after denying that "Roche-style" job cuts were in the offing at Novartis ($NVS), the company now says it will slice about 1,400 positions from its U.S. sales team, effective January 1. The cutbacks will hit the company's General Medicines sales force, which will be losing products from its portfolio as drugs go off patent.
In a statement, Novartis says that it expects some "new product launches" in its primary care business, but it's specialty care that has "significant growth momentum." In fact, in last week's strategy update, CEO Joe Jiminez (photo) says he's aiming Novartis more toward specialty drugs and away from mass-market medications.
As the product mix changes, the sales force has to change, too, so it's focused on "the greatest opportunities for growth," the company says. "Proactively evolving our business model will enable us to focus our resources on key launch products and capture opportunities in both primary care and specialty medicines," Andy Wyss, the company's North American pharma chief and president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, says in that statement.
It's true that these 1,400 cutbacks are less than a third of the global layoffs Roche has announced. But they're concentrated in one particular area, whereas the Roche cuts are spread out geographically and operationally. So, for employees who happen to be in the target zone, the layoffs will seem plenty big. And the company may not be finished yet: It's in the midst of assessing operations in manufacturing, marketing and sales for efficiency.