The extent to which the recession has cut into high-value research and development jobs in the pharmaceutical industry will be apparent soon as job losses in the industry climb to an additional 12,000.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the British drugs group, will announce plans for further restructuring with the loss of 4,000 jobs, nearly half in the research and development departments.
The job attrition reflects widespread unease among drug companies about the loss of revenues from a small number of blockbuster medicines.
For example, this year GSK will lose patent protection for Seretide, an asthma treatment worth $4 billion.
GSK started reshaping its business in 2007 by focusing on three areas: vaccines, over-the-counter medicines and non-medical products, and emerging markets. GSK diverted investment away from pure research and toward products that enabled the company to catch a greater share of the consumer dollar.
However, GSK is not the first drug company to announce job cutbacks and realignment of their target markets, with a path toward vaccines. Novartis, Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, and Sanofi Pasteur are just a few of the Big Pharma members that have done this within the past two years.
And while the recession definitely played a part in this, the truth is, plans to switch to the vaccine market were already in place, long before the recession began.