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Top Pharma Layoffs of 2009: Pfizer's on First, Merck's on Second, Who's on Third?

The massive amount of pharma industry consolidation in 2009 went hand-in-hand with massive layoffs. So it's no surprise that the year's biggest acquirers were also the year's biggest distributors of pink slips.

Pfizer (PFE) took the title for most layoffs this year, shedding 19,500 employees before and after its $68 billion merger with Wyeth. In second place was Merck (MRK), which laid off 16,000 employees after its $41 billion acquisition of Schering-Plough.

Who else topped the 2009 layoff list? FiercePharma offers a handy report:

  • Third: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), with 8,900. Most of these cuts, which spanned the organization, were blamed on the sluggish economy and the need to decrease expenses.
  • Fourth: AstraZeneca (AZN), with 7,400. Another company that wasn't getting it done on the top-line and had to cut expenses to improve the bottom line.
  • Fifth: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with 6,000. The cuts, which were deepest in the U.K., were linked to patent expiries, the collapse of diabetes drug Avandia, and legal costs.
  • Sixth: Eli Lilly (LLY) with 5,500. The sales force bore the brunt of this burden as Lilly prepared for patent expirations of chemo drug Gemzar and CNS drugs Zyprexa and Cymbalta.
  • Seventh: Teva with 1,090. In more consolidation-related cuts, Teva streamlined after acquiring Barr Pharmaceuticals.
  • Eighth: Sepracor (SEPR) with 940. Now a subsidiary of Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma, Sepracor slashed its sales force.
  • Ninth: Boehringer Ingelheim with 860. Once again, sales reps felt the pain.
  • Tenth: King (KG) with 770. Some of these cuts trimmed Alpharma acquisition overlap, while others were related to a patent expiration on muscle drug Skelaxin.
  • Dishonorable Mention: Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) with 750. Bracing for patent expirations of sleep drug Ambien and anti-clotting drug Plavix, Sanofi slammed its sales reps.
Sales forces were hit hard across all of these layoffs -- perhaps another indication that pharma is moving toward smaller markets that can be reached with fewer feet on the street. FiercePharma says 58,696 pharmaceutical and biotech jobs have been cut through the end of October of this year -- more than in all of 2008.

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