Pfizer to cut 177 jobs in Co Cork
US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has confirmed that it is to cut its workforce in Cork by 177 in response to a fall in demand for its leading anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor, which has come off patent in the US and is currently coming off patent in Europe.
Pfizer management at its plants at Ringskiddy, where 500 people are employed, and Little Island - which has a workforce of 220 - met staff this morning to brief them on the job cuts which will take effect from next year.
Pfizer vice president Dr Paul Duffy said the job cuts were in response in a reduction in the volumes of medicines being manufactured at both the Ringaskiddy and Little Island sites and in particular to the patent expiry on Lipitor which has resulted in a drop in global demand.
"Pfizer has been preparing for patent expiration for a considerable time. Patent expiry means greater competition which impacts global demand, and we need to readjust the scale of our manufacturing operations," said Dr Duffy.
Dr Duffy said Ireland will remain a key strategic location for Pfizer. The firm employs a total of 4,000 people at a number of sites in Ireland including Kildare, Limerick and Dublin in addition to the two Cork sites.
Pfizer site leader at Little Island and Ringaskiddy Seamus Fives said it had been a difficult decision to make to cut numbers at both Cork plants but the expiry of patents on Lipitor and other medicines has two key effects on demand for their products.
The first effect is that with competition from generic brands of the drug, demand for Lipitor and other medicines coming off patent declines while the second effect is that Pfizer has to reduce its manufacturing costs in order to compete with generic brands, he said.
"Within the Pfizer global manufacturing network, Ireland competes with much lower cost manufacturing locations and continuous focus upon competitiveness is critical for the future," said Mr Fives.
Lipitor has been the world’s leading selling medicine and has been manufactured for global supply from Ireland but patent expiry began in the US last year and it continues in Europe throughout 2012.
However, Dr Duffy stressed that Pfizer remains committed to its Irish operations. "We need to achieve greater competiveness so that we can be successful in certain areas of generic manufacturing and in ensuring we are a key destination for new medicines.
"Sites in Ireland have very recently been successful in securing the manufacture of four new Pfizer medicines, two for cancer, one for osteoporosis and one for rheumatoid arthritis," added Dr Duffy.
Siptu represents some 356 workers at the Little Island and Ringaskiddy plants and union representatives are due to meet with Pfizer management around lunch hour to begin talks on the redundancy programme which is to begin on a voluntary basis.
Siptu pointed out in a statement issued yesterday that it had recently held talks with Pfizer management at which the company’s executives had given a commitment that there would be no redundancies implemented in 2012.
Minister for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock said today's news would come as a sever blow to workers and their families.
“Clearly I very much regret the scale of job loses announced. However I welcome the company’s continued commitment to Ireland and I am optimistic that Pfizer will continue to develop new products which will ensure the future of Pfizer jobs in Cork and in their other Irish locations," he said.
Cork Chamber of Commerce expressed its disappointment at today's announcement and warned of the impact the job losses would have on the local economy.
"We need to bear in mind Pfizer’s continuing strong investment in Ireland and indeed Cork, and the opportunities which will exist for future investment in the years ahead," said the organisation's chief executive Conor Healy.