AT A GLANCE: AstraZeneca and Pfizer to reduce workforces

What’s going on?
AstraZeneca announced last week that it is to cut 3,000 jobs (or nearly five per cent of its global workforce) by 2010. This followed last month’s news that Pfizer is planning to axe a tenth of its workforce, with 10,000 jobs going worldwide.

So, will comms teams be affected?
There’s no word on that just yet. Both companies say they will continue to speak to unions about the redund­ancies before publicly announcing more details.

Are there any hints as to where the axe may fall?
A spokeswoman for AZ said the manufacturing and distribution side of its business will be most affected by job losses. This would indicate that its comms function is not being targeted for cuts.

And that’s also the case with Pfizer?
Pfizer’s UK comms team had not ret­urned PRWeek’s calls for comment as the magazine went to press. But the company’s cuts seem to be more focused on fact­ories and its US sales force, rather than comms executives. It is to shut three R&D sites in the US and is looking at closures in France and Japan.

Are both of these companies performing badly then?
After a look at their figures, it doesn’t appear so. AZ’s pre-tax profits for 2006 were up 28 per cent to £4.4bn, with sales up 11 per cent to £13.5bn, in part through blockbuster drugs such as its anti-cholesterol brand Crestor. Market leader Pfizer’s turnover for 2006 was £24.7bn (up from £24.2bn in 2005).

In that case, what’s the rationale for the cutbacks?
Two things, apparently: the threat of generics, and a relatively weak product pipeline. AZ says that copies of its previously best-selling blood pressure drug Toprol-XL will shave its profits. And its stomach acid brand Nexium suffered a setback last year when the European patent office decided to reject its patent – thus potentially damaging future sales. Meanwhile, the patent on Pfizer’s cholesterol treatment Lipitor is set to expire in three or four years’ time.

Development of a promising replacement, currently called torcetrapib, was recently suspended after the drug was deemed in trials to be unsafe (PRWeek, 6 December 2006).


For further information visit www.astrazeneca.com or alternatively www.pfizer.com.

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