AstraZeneca’s busy week continues with the news that the firm is to shed 1,400 jobs and close three plants in Europe in a bid to improve efficiency and cut costs.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker says that “the introduction of new manufacturing processes has brought further opportunities to drive efficiencies across the global supply chain”. In practice, this means that AstraZeneca will exit three sites – Porriño, (Spain), Destelbergen (Belgium) and Umea in Sweden

The firm added that other roles will be affected at its facilities in Macclesfield in the UK and Sodertalje in Sweden. These moves will result in a net reduction across the business of 1400 positions by 2013, subject to local consultation.

AstraZeneca also noted that it is further investing in its Wuxi plant in China “to support the company’s continuing growth in the Asia Pacific markets”. Part of this investment will provide additional packing and formulation capabilities “and enable Wuxi to become the packing centre for Asia Pacific, complementing those in Europe and Latin America”.

“These moves are a continuation of AstraZeneca’s programme to improve the organisation’s productivity and efficiency,” said David Smith, executive vice president, operations. “It moves the supply process closer to the customer, responding to their requirements and improving the security of the product wherever it is bought.

He acknowledged that “these changes are difficult for our affected employees, with whom we will be consulting in the coming months”. However, “we believe these changes are necessary for the long-term strength of the business”.

Finally, AstraZeneca has sold a portfolio of over-the-counter products predominantly marketed in Sweden to GlaxoSmithKline for $253 million. Sales of the brands, which include analgesics Alvedon and Reliv, Nezeril/Nasin for decongestion, Minifom for gastrointestinal disorders and Duroferon for the treatment of iron deficiency, reached approximately $48 million in 2007.

The transaction is conditional upon the Swedish Competition Authority's approval, which is not likely to be received until the first quarter of 2009.