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Pfizer to cut 177 jobs in Ireland as demand for Lipitor falls

Effects of generic competition continue to hit US pharma firm

Pfizer is to cut 177 manufacturing jobs in Cork, Ireland, as the pharma company restructures operations to cope with declining demand for its cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor now that it faces generic competition.

The affected sites are Little Island and Ringaskiddy, both of which manufacture what was once the world's biggest selling drug as well as several other medicines whose patents will soon expire.

“Patent expiry means greater competition which impacts global demand, and we need to readjust the scale of our manufacturing operations,” said Dr Paul Duffy, vice president, Pfizer.  

The company said it would offer 'extensive support' to affected employees, including career advice and counselling.

Seamus Fives, site leader at Little Island and Ringaskiddy, said: “This has been a very difficult decision to make and we understand the impact of this on our colleagues and their families.

“There are two dynamics at play as a result of patent expiration of key medicines. One, as demand falls due to generic competition, manufacturing volume required reduces significantly. Secondly, much greater competitiveness is required to compete with generic medicines meaning that the cost of manufacturing must be reduced.“

Trade union SIPTU, which represents 356 workers at the Ringaskiddy and Little Island production plants, said it was in talks with Pfizer and confirmed that it would be 2013 before any job losses would occur.

“This provides us with a period of time to engage with Pfizer to explore all avenues to reduce the actual number of job losses,” said SIPTU pharmaceutical, chemical and medical devices sector organiser, Alan O'Leary.

The news is in contrast to recent positive steps for pharma in Ireland, including the launch of the government's Action Plan for Jobs, which outlined several steps to boost the Irish economy including increased support for the life sciences industry.

Despite the cuts, Pfizer's Paul Duffy said Ireland was still a “key strategic location” for the company, which currently employs about 4,000 people at eight sites across Cork, Kildare, Limerick and Dublin.

Commenting on Pfizer's continued presence in the country, Matt Moran, director of PharmaChemical Ireland (PCI), said: “We would remain absolutely confident as to the future of the company in Ireland.”

The industry association says pharma has invested €1.5bn in Ireland during the last 12 months, including a $200m investment from Pfizer at its biotech site in Grange Castle.

“The sector is undergoing change and transformation at the moment and PCI is pursuing a strategy with the sector that involves investment in development and high end manufacturing such as biotech,” said Moran.

“It is PCI's belief that the industry in Ireland will continue to respond to its challenges and is secure in the long run.”

7th June 2012

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