Following speculation earlier this week, Pfizer has today briefed staff in two Cork sites, confirming there will be job losses next year.
Employees at Pfizer’s manufacturing sites in Little Island and Ringaskiddy will be affected by the cuts. The Little Island site will see its staff of 175 lose 48 members, while 129 jobs will go at the Ringaskiddy plant, which currently employs 450.
Pfizer employs about 4,000 people in eight sites across Ireland and has invested US$7bn in its Irish operations since 1969.
Today’s bad news, however, comes as a result of declining demand for previously lucrative products such as Atorvastatin, more commonly known as Lipitor, a cholesterol-fighting drug. The patent on Lipitor has expired, resulting in significant losses for Pfizer.
“Patent expiry means greater competition which impacts global demand and we need to readjust the scale of our manufacturing operations,” said Pfizer vice-president Paul Duffy.
Patent expiries put pharmaceutical sector in danger
IBEC estimates pharmaceutical products to the value of €26bn were produced in Ireland last year, representing 28pc of exported goods. Ireland is home to eight out of 10 of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies and the sector employs about 25,000 people.
This key sector is highly vulnerable when it comes to the expiration of patents, and Lipitor is just the beginning. Pfizer has a number of popular medicines facing the same issue in the coming years, including Sildenafil to treat erectile dysfunction and Eletriptan for migraine.
Minister expresses confidence in sector
Minister for Research and Innovation, Seán Sherlock, TD, said “Today’s announcement will come as a severe blow to the workers and their families. The focus now is to ensure maximum support and assistance for those workers affected by this announcement.”
The Minister stated his regret over the scale of job losses, but welcomed Pfizer’s continued commitment in Ireland.
“The Government’s Action Plan for Jobs 2012 has identified a number of actions to attract and grow investment in life science, particularly in the pharma and biopharma areas,” said the Minister. “I believe that with this focus we can be optimistic for the future growth of this sector in Ireland.”
Job cuts image via Shutterstock