Wyeth's managers were told today that up to 10 percent of the firm's worldwide workforce could be cut over the next three years.
Doug Petkus, a spokesman for the pharmaceutical company, confirmed the discussions, but stressed that "nothing is etched in stone, and it is premature to discuss how many or which positions will be affected or how the reductions will be achieved.
"This process is in its preliminary stages, and we are evaluating a number of options, including workforce reductions," Petkus said. "We plan to share the details of this initiative with employees toward the end of March."
Wyeth, based in Madison, N.J., has 50,000 workers, including about 4,000 in Collegeville, where the firm's pharmaceuticals division is based, and 1,100 in the Great Valley area.
If the cuts proceed, Wyeth would be the latest in a lengthening line of pharmaceutical firms that are tightening budgets and trimming employees. For example, GlaxoSmithKline P.L.C., which has a U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia, announced in October that it would cut an unspecified number of jobs to save $1.4 billion over three years.
Among the pressures on Wyeth is a standoff with the world's largest maker of generic drugs, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., which announced late last year that it would sell a low-cost version of Wyeth's third-best seller, the heartburn drug Protonix. Teva is currently holding back sales until Jan. 31 to see if a compromise can be reached.
Wyeth also has faced several delays in new products, including one for Viviant, an experimental drug for postmenopausal bone loss. The Food and Drug Administration delayed the drug's application last month to examine the risk of strokes and blood clots.
The company had a profit of $3.6 billion in the first nine months of 2007, up 8 percent from the same period a year earlier.