At the end of 2013 big pharma employed only 3% fewer people than it did in 2003, a drop of almost 31,500, data collected by EvaluatePharma reveal. While huge redundancy programmes affecting thousands might still be making headlines; these topline figures do not paint a picture of a dramatically shrinking industry. Conversely, for an image of spectacular expansion look no further than the world just outside big pharma – other drug companies with a market cap of more than $30bn more than doubled their headcount over the past decade, adding more than 130,000 employees.
Pfizer completed two in the last decade – the move on Pharmacia in 2003 caused its year-end employee number to balloon to 122,000 and then fall gradually until it bought Wyeth in 2009. In 2004 the merger of SanofiSynthélabo and Aventis created Sanofi-Aventis, today’s Sanofi, and Merck moved on Schering-Plough in 2009.
Novartis, currently the biggest pharma employer, began to consolidate Alcon in 2010, which had a marked impact on its staff numbers – the eye specialist employed 15,700 before it was taken over. Meanwhile Abbott has gone the other way and broken up, explaining its big drop last year and the appearance of AbbVie.
One hugely important strategic deal that did not affect these figures was Roche’s consolidation of Genentech – the Swiss company included the biotech’s employees in its headcount before the full takeover in 2009.
Acquisitions will always have an impact on headcount, and none more so than the megamerger, both through the instant boom in staff numbers and the inevitable “synergies” pursued in the years following, when big headcount reductions are typically made.
But in the last decade these companies have also been travelling over huge patent cliffs and through an R&D productivity crisis. Their responses to these problems have arguably shaped their patterns of employment just as much as the mega mergers which, in certain cases, were considered the answer.
The substantial decline in US sales forces is one of the biggest employment shifts that happened before big patent expires. For example over the last decade Glaxo and Eli Lilly – neither of which underwent a megamerger – trimmed their respective US workforces by a third. Most job losses, representing 7,500-8,000 positions at each company, would have been felt by the sales reps.
More recently R&D departments have borne the brunt of job losses, as a result of various initiatives to improve the return on investment in drug research. Glaxo and Sanofi, for example, have cut the number of people working in their labs by 23% and 12% respectively over the past five years, representing the loss of almost 6,000 positions in total. (Más)
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