Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has announced a round of job cuts at sites in the UK and Ireland under a previously reported global restructuring programme designed to garner annual savings of up to £700 million by 2010.

The company says it plans to cut around 100 jobs at a manufacturing facility in Cork, Ireland, to address excess capacity, and that 330 are set to go in Ulverston, UK, as the group grapples with climbing costs and decreasing competitiveness, according to media reports.

In October last year the world’s second largest drugmaker unveiled a £1.5 billion restructuring plan, or an “operational excellence programme”, with cuts in manufacturing (40%), selling and administration (40%) and R&D (20%).

At the time, chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier declined to give specific figures about the number of jobs that will go, but claimed that, “by making the changes we envision, GSK will be better placed to address the challenges we face in 2008”.

Unfortunately, a spokesperson for GSK could not be reached in time by PharmaTimes for comment.

Amber light for Prepandrix and Volibris
Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use has adopted a positive opinion recommending the granting of a marketing authorisation for GSK’s Prepandrix, the first pre-pandemic influenza vaccine. Previously there has been no EU-approved jab against the strain, commonly known as bird flu, with antiretrovirals being the most frequently used treatment.

Jean Stephenne, president of GSK Biologicals, the firm’s vaccine division, said the recommendation “reflects the growing recognition of pre-pandemic vaccination as an important strategy for addressing the current pandemic threat posed by H5N1”. He added that “a number of national governments have expressed significant interest in stockpiling our candidate…to help insure against the devastating impact of a pandemic”.

In addition, the company’s pulmonary arterial hypertension treatment Volibris (ambrisentan) was also given the thumbs up, and full approval is expected by the end of April. The drug, a non-sulphonamide class endothelin receptor antagonist, is the first PAH medicine indicated for patients classed as World Health Organisation Functional Class II and III in Europe.