Sanofi to cut 817 French reps

Sanofi-Aventis' French sales reps aren't happy right now. The company is following through on its previously announced plans to trim its sales unit in France. Although the number of layoffs has not yet been determined, Sanofi said it would cut 817 from the sales ranks, about one-third of its present force. Another 110 jobs will fall to the axe at company HQ. The company says it will try to avoid outright layoffs as much as possible by reassigning workers; some 150 already have agreed to new posts elsewhere in the company.

These cuts come on top of a worldwide trimming of Sanofi's sales force over the past two years. Some 2,900 sales jobs were cut away in the U.S. and Europe by February 2008, about 5 percent of the worldwide total. In the U.S. alone, the sales ranks thinned by 18 percent to 7,800 people.

It's been a tough year for pharma sales reps. Big Pharma has been slashing their jobs by the thousands, with Merck, Wyeth, Schering-Plough and others announcing big-time sales layoffs. Plus, reps have been locked out of some academic medical centers, told to get a license by the District of Columbia's local government and barred from handing out tchotchkes in Massachusetts. Even the industry's own association, PhRMA, has curtailed reps' activities with a new marketing code.

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