Roche details job cuts, passes Tamiflu to contract sales org

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Roche detailed its “operational excellence” cost-cutting program in a statement today, confirming a total workforce reduction of 4,800 jobs, plus another 1,500 positions being either transferred or outsourced to third parties. The program was first announced in early September, and will be implemented in 2011 and 2012.

In total, 6,300 jobs will be affected, with 2,650 coming from pharmaceutical sales and marketing, and 3,550 happening in the US, according to the release. Robin Synder, a spokesperson for Roche-owned Genentech, said that no sales and marketing jobs are being outsourced, and that Tamiflu is “the only product going to a CSO,” or contract sales organization.

“This is a comprehensive, focused initiative to reinforce Roche's long-term innovation capability in the face of increased price pressures and a more challenging market environment,” said CEO Severin Schwan, in the announcement. The “main reasons” for sales and marketing reductions, according to the announcement, are taspoglutide, a type two diabetes drug and potential blockbuster, which hit a snag in clinical trials over the summer, and “structural adjustments in the primary care sales organizations, mainly in the US and Europe.”

As part of the restructuring, Roche will focus on late-stage cancer products including T-DM1, a BRAF inhibitor for skin cancer, pertuzumab for HER2-positive breast cancer, and MetMab for lung cancer, according to the announcement. Roche's top selling cancer drugs, Avastin, Rituxan and Herceptin, had US sales of $2.6 billion, $2.3 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively, during the first nine months of 2010, according to company data. Biogen Idec, a partner on Rituxan, recently eliminated 123 sales reps supporting the drug, and handed full commercial duties over to Roche, according to Naomi Aoki, a Biogen Idec spokesperson.

Lucentis, an eye drug first approved in 2006, picked up a new indication over the summer, and had US sales of $1.1 billion for the first nine months of 2010, a 29% increase compared with the same period in 2009, according to company data.

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