GlaxoSmithKline has confirmed that it is reducing its US sales force by around 1,000 but has told PharmaTimes World News that the move is not a mere cost-cutting exercise.

The cuts, which amounts to a reduction of around 12%, will see GSK actually eliminate nearly 1,800 sales positions, though some of these posts were already vacant so the net reduction is about 1,000. This will leave the firm with a 7,500-strong sales force.

The move is in line with chief executive Andrew Witty’s vision to make GSK more efficient in the USA and elsewhere and some observers believe it signals the company’s desire to shift more its focus to emerging markets. Last month, the firm announced plans to cut up to 850 R&D jobs in the UK and USA, represents around 6% of its research staff and those cuts are in addition to the 350 posts GSK eliminated in June.

Like pretty much every other drugmaker, GSK is restructuring but a spokesperson for the company told PharmaTimes World News that the sales staff cuts in the USA “is clearly not a cost-cutting measure”. She noted that GSK is actually adding jobs in certain areas, notably in vaccines and oncology, and the changes are an example of the company listening to doctors and other healthcare professionals and how their relationships with reps can be improved.

Additionally reps will be grouped around therapeutic areas, rather than along geographic lines as in the past. This will lead to a more specialised and better-informed field force, GSK believes.

GSK also noted that it will no longer operate from two US headquarters, in Philadelphia and Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The latter will become the company’s sole US HQ.

Having the two US bases dates from 2000, when GSK was created out of the merger of SmithKline Beecham (Philadelphia) and Glaxo Wellcome (RTP). The latter has been chosen because the company has more employees there – 5,000 versus 1,500 — and owns its buildings in North Carolina. The Philadelphia offices are leased.