Pharma layoffs cut deep, spread widely

The roll call of pharma companies that laid off workers this year certainly reads like an industry who's who. Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer, both pre-Wyeth-merger and post-merger. Merck, ditto. GlaxoSmithKline. Sanofi-Aventis. AstraZeneca. Lots of those jobs lost were sales-rep posts as the industry scales back from a big surge in sales hiring several years ago. But with big mergers and other cost-cutting imperatives, all sorts of pharma-ites got pink slips in 2009.

And the pain wasn't limited to Big Pharma. Generics firms such as King Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced job cuts, too. So did Big Biotech, including Amgen. Here's a rundown of some of the biggest. (For more detail check out our special layoffs report.)

  • Johnson & Johnson announced plans to cut 7 percent of its global workforce, or around 8,000, citing economic weakness as one reason. CEO Bill Weldon hinted that markets outside the U.S. might suffer a greater proportion of the layoffs, but cuts were planned for all the company's business units, and at its corporate HQ.

  • When it agreed to buy Wyeth, Pfizer announced it would cut around 19,500 jobs, or 15 percent of the combined workforce, and industry observers expected a somewhat larger chunk of those cuts to come at Wyeth. Since the deal was finalized, the layoffs have begun. But they're not finished yet.

  • Likewise, Merck said it would be wielding the jobs axe once its reverse merger with Schering-Plough took place. Again, the proportion was 15 percent; the number, 16,000. 

  • Economic woes also plagued AstraZeneca, which said in early 2009 that it would slash its workforce by 7,400 by 2013. CEO David Brennan said, "Market conditions have never been tougher." Tough times for AZ staffers, too; that 7,400 came on top of another 7,500 or so previously announced.

  • Eli Lilly announced a restructuring plan that would claim about 13.5 percent of its workforce, or 5,500. But at the same time it said it would be staffing up in China, as it targets that market for big-time sales growth.

Of course, many of these layoff announcements include job cuts that haven't taken place. It does, after all, cost money and take time to pare back a workforce. So the pink slips will keep on coming, and we'll keep you posted.

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