Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca led Big Pharma's layoffs in 2016: report

During a tough 2016, five major drugmakers shrunk their payrolls while just three of them added jobs. On the positive side, AbbVie expanded its employee base by 7% over 2015. On the negative? Sanofi shrank its roster by 8%.

The numbers come courtesy of EP Vantage, which dug into the companies' year-end financial reports. Sanofi led the job-culling pack with an 8% workforce reduction, ending 2016 at 106,859, down from 115,631 when the year dawned.

All told, three big drugmakers added jobs in 2016, while three kept about the same size and five cut jobs, according to EP. The group’s overall employee base shrank 1% to 866,179 workers.

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AbbVie added the most jobs percentage-wise, but it's important to note that the Illinois-based drugmaker is smaller in size than most of its peers on the list. The company added about 2,000 jobs last year, growing to 30,000 employees by the end of 2016, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

In second place among the expansions was Roche and its 3% hike; that amounted to 2,300 additional jobs and a year-end workforce of 94,052 employees. The Swiss drugmaker has grown significantly, adding about 14,000 jobs since 2011.

Eli Lilly added jobs at a 2% rate, earning it third place. At the end of 2016, Lilly employed 41,975 workers. And that's a turnaround for the Indianapolis pharma. In recent years, the company cut thousands of employees as patent cliff losses took their toll. Now, the company is a bit ahead of the employment numbers it posted in 2006.

RELATED: Payer squeeze prompts Sanofi to slash 20% of U.S. diabetes sales force

Johnson & Johnson, which cut 1% of its workforce last year, is the biggest employer in the group, ending 2016 with 126,400 workers.

Each of the moves came during a challenging year for pharma as pricing attention in the U.S. intensified and payers got increasingly tough on pricing in competitive therapeutic areas. Sanofi, which has had trouble in its key diabetes business—much of it from discount-seeking payers—cut 500 jobs in France to start the year as CEO Olivier Brandicourt moved to reduce costs.

RELATED: Mylan eyes up to 3,500 layoffs in post-M&A cost-cutting drive

Later in 2016, the French drugmaker chopped 20% of its U.S. diabetes and cardiovascular sales force. AstraZeneca, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and J&J each trimmed their workforces last year, according to EP. AZ announced 700 layoffs back in December 2016.

Apart from those companies, Mylan announced in late 2016 that it would cut up to 3,500 employees around the globe to realize savings after a series of deals. On Thursday, Teva announced a massive round of job cuts—7,000—as its struggles mount, including U.S. price pressure, executive turnover, debt and costly settlements.