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Pfizer and AstraZeneca: More Loss of Jobs to Come

Update: Since the merger of Pfizer and AstraZeneca never happened, this post is obsolete. But I will leave it up as it does raise some points about how these mega pharma mergers are not the best for employees:

Well, I finally have something to write about again. Lately, I just haven’t had much to say here. But the latest news about Pfizer trying to buy AstraZeneca for $100 billion just sickens me. After 20 years of recruiting exclusively for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, I have seen this merger business enough to know it will mean thousands, let me repeat, thousands of layoffs of wonderfully smart and dedicated scientists who work in R&D.

Everyone knows that Pfizer hasn’t discovered much in years and instead just buys companies for their discoveries. Then they close the old company sites and lay off most of the people. All this looks great to stock holders and accountants. Shift debt  from here to there, flee taxes in the US and cut R&D expenses through layoffs and site closures. But where is the decency? I know some x-Wyeth chemists still looking for work after Pfizer laid off over 12k of the poor souls who worked for Wyeth. If I was anyone at AstraZeneca I would be dusting off that CV now and actively calling every recruiter I know. But can the existing job market take in the displaced employees from this pending Pfizer/ AstraZeneca deal? Based on my experience I say, “No!”

Pfizer is a behemoth that plows down anyone in the way of its self-interests. I remember I was happily recruiting for Warner Lambert, when Pfizer bought them. Literally the day of the deal completed, when I called someone at WL, the new receptionist answered, “You have reached Pfizer. We strive for excellence”. WL was no longer. I also was no longer a recruiter for them as Pfizer had no need of recruitment. Next I was recruiting for Pharmacia, when Pfizer bought them. Same thing happened. The day of the deal, the phone was answered: “ You have reached Pfizer. We strive for excellence”. Ugh. That ended that relationship. Someone joked recently that the about some combination for a new name like ‘PfiZeneca’. I chucked because I am sure the new name will be plain old Pfizer.

I could rant on, but it is better to read the experts who actually work in the industry. I follow mostly scientists on twitter and my stream is flowing with tweets about this merger. Not too many of the comments, if any, are positive. Derek Lowe over at his blog Pipeline is incredulous and writes: “Pfizer and AstraZeneca: What the Hell?” Be sure to read all the comments from the scientists who have seen these power plays too many times before. John LaMattina gives his opinion on his Forbes blog, “Potential Impact of a Pfizer Takeover of AstraZeneca”. He talks about how the R&D budget after the Wyeth takeover was reduced by 50% and the various drug pipelines that may or may not be chopped if this Pfizer/ AstraZeneca deal goes through. Matthew Herper also at Forbes asks some great questions: “ The Three Questions Pfizer Must Answer About its $99 Billion AstraZeneca Bid”. And Tracy Staton writes for FiercePharma that the last big merger with Wyeth resulted in 33,500 jobs lost or 30% of the Pfizer payroll. I wonder how many jobs will be lost this time? Stay tuned.

Since I upgraded to the new version of WordPress I am having a problem inserting links. I have no time to figure this all out. But here are the links to the above posts I mention: