Schering to cut 20% of sales force

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Schering-Plough plans to eliminate about 1,000 U.S. sales representatives—about 20 percent of its field force—as a means to cut costs.

The Kenilworth, N.J.-based pharmaceutical company said its changes are part of a broader Productivity Transformation Program (PTP) cost-cutting measure while increasing productivity, to generate a total of $1.5 billion by 2012 in targeted annual savings and synergies.

Overall, the PTP will include a loss of jobs for approximately 5,500 employees, about 10 percent of its global work force.

The program was announced in response to increased pressure on the industry, as well as a downturn in sales of cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia, which Schering-Plough co-markets with Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck.

The job cuts affect the U.S. sales team that promotes certain drugs to primary care physicians, and not sales organizations outside the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Schering-Plough is taking these and other ... actions after critically examining all the work being done by its colleagues and finding ways to become leaner, more effective and better able to meet customers' needs,” the company said.

Schering-Plough will have a U.S. field sales force of about 4,000 following the layoffs. Globally, the company had about 55,000 employees as of the end of last year, according to regulatory filings.