AstraZeneca says that media reports which claim that the firm is looking to divest its manufacturing operations are a little wide of the mark.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker was responding to an interview with David Smith, who is in charge of the firm’s global manufacturing and supply organisation as part of his role as executive vice president of operations, who told The Times that the company aims to become a pure R&D and marketing organisation.

“Manufacturing for AstraZeneca is not a core activity,” Mr Smith was quoted as saying and added that “there are lots of people and organisations that can manufacture better than we can.” He said that there are “significantly cheaper contract manufacturers” around the world and “we are looking to access China and India in a much more meaningful way”.

Mr Smith said that the transformation would take several years to complete because of complex regulatory hurdles and he told The Times that “we would own the intellectual property, the research, branding and the quality and safety issues...but [everything else] would be outsourced. The idea is to take out as many stages as you can.”

However AstraZeneca sent a statement to PharmaTimes World News saying that the purpose of the interview was to speak with Mr Smith about how the pharmaceutical sector “is looking to other industries for supply chain practices and philosophies”. The company says that “fully outsourcing supply and manufacturing activities, as implied in the article, is not part of the AstraZeneca strategy” but it “will use outsourcing where there is a sound business case”.

In particular, AstraZeneca reiterated that it is currently exploring the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients but will “continue to source activities in-house that are critical to keeping connected with the patient and essential to ensuring patient safety”. As such, supply and manufacturing will “play an important role in this through delivery of a robust end-to-end supply chain”.

AstraZeneca has 27 manufacturing sites in 19 countries and has announced plans to shed 7,600 jobs - or 11% of its global workforce, as part of a restructuring programme designed to combat the effects of patent expiries on key drugs. It is not the only firm involved in such activities and recently Pfizer announced that it is stopping all manufacturing at its Sandwich UK plant, which will result in the loss of 420 jobs.