Geez Louise, could the pharma employment picture get much bleaker? On Friday, Schering-Plough announced it would cut 10% of its 55,000 global employees within the next two years, and that the company's Kenilworth, N.J. headquarters would feel the most pain. Let's empathize for a moment: slowly say, "fifty-five hundred people out on the street." Ouch. Double ouch. Today's news, while on a scale that is several orders of magnitude lower, is plenty painful in its own right. The San Francisco Business Times reports that local biopharma company VaxGen Inc. "will lay off about 16 or 17 of its 22 remaining employees, including chief financial officer Matthew Pfeffer, to save money after its proposed merger with Raven Biotechnologies Inc. fell through." So a company that had a few dozen people on its payroll two years ago is reduced to a five- to six-person startup? San Francisco Business Times writer Steven E.F. Brown noted, "VaxGen has been struggling since it lost a contract with the federal government in December 2006. That deal, in which VaxGen would make 75 million doses of anthrax vaccine for use against possible bioterror attacks, was worth $877 million. After that, the company stopped all development of its recombinant anthrax vaccine and cut all the people working on it. " Ouch again. In an article that both reported and remarked on the Schering-Plough news, the Associated Press provided an answer to the question every pharmaceutical professional must be asking -- "When will it end?":
"There are a lot of things going on making this the perfect storm for the industry," said Argus Research health care analyst Martha Freitag. "My sense is maybe we're halfway through" the cost-cutting.And in case, like me, you've lost count, because your head is reeling from reading headline after headline about pharma job cuts during the past three years, our friends at AP were thoughtful enough to tally it up for us: "Since 2007, eight of the world's biggest drug makers have announced the elimination of more than 42,000 jobs; two other major companies have eliminated another 12,200 jobs in the last few years," the article pointed out. Holy aching stomach, Batman! I can't help but appreciate the irony as I reach for the Zantac . . . -HP P.S. The only good news (if you call deriving enjoyment from someone else's misfortune 'good news') on the employment scene today was an article in the Charlotte Observer noting that even some local law firms are being hit by the layoff bug. If anyone's going to have to experience the kind of pain that pharmaceutical professionals are enduring, it might as well be "those who deal with the legal side of complex transactions such as commercial mortgage-backed securities and other real estate investment deals," don't you agree?