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Volume 86 Issue 40 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: October 6, 2008

Pfizer, GSK Reshape R&D

Pharma giants refocus; job cuts are likely
Department: Business

Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline—the number one and two drug companies by pharmaceutical sales—are reshaping their R&D organizations, with job cuts likely.

Pfizer's biannual drug pipeline update highlighted candidates in Phase III development, most of which are in its high-priority research areas of oncology, pain, inflammation, diabetes, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease.

Separately, Martin Mackay, president of Pfizer global R&D, told managers in an internal memo that Pfizer is ending research in anemia, bone health, obesity, gastrointestinal disease, and some cardiovascular diseases. "We are investing in the most promising disease areas, where there is strong unmet medical need, favorable markets, and an opportunity to advance medical science," Mackay said.

The shifts reflect market conditions. Whereas sales of oncologics grew 16.2% in 2007, according to the research firm IMS Health, generic drugs in other disease areas are eroding the dominance of former blockbusters. For example, sales of lipid-lowering agents, such as Pfizer's Lipitor, declined 6.7% last year.

According to a company spokeswoman, the R&D changes will not affect Pfizer's late-stage pipeline or marketed products. Because managers are still deciding how to redirect resources, there is no word yet on any job cuts.

Meanwhile, GSK is planning cuts in preclinical development and molecular discovery research that could impact up to 850 jobs, or 6% of its R&D staff, in the U.S. and U.K.

The company needs to reshape its R&D operations to take advantage of new scientific opportunities, improve productivity, and invest in growing areas, a GSK spokeswoman says.

 
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