Merck & Co has unveiled details about a previously-announced restructuring following its merger with Schering-Plough and announced the closure of eight research sites and eight manufacturing facilities.

The US drugs major plans to phase out operations at eight research sites over the next two years – Montreal (Canada), Boxmeer, Oss and Schaijk (Netherlands), Odense (Denmark), Waltrop (Germany), Newhouse (Scotland) and Kendall Square (Massachusetts). This will leave Merck with 16 major R&D facilities worldwide, which will focus on on seven therapeutic areas - cardiovascular, diabetes and obesity, infectious diseases, neuroscience and ophthalmology, respiratory and immunology,plus women's health and endocrine. Women’s health is being relocated to the USA from Oss.

The manufacturing facilities where work will end are in Comazzo (Italy), Cacem,(Portugal), Azcapotzalco and Coyoacan (Mexico) and Santo Amaro (Brazil), while Merck intends to sell the Mirador (Argentina) and Miami Lakes (Florida) plants. However, the company says it will continue to make “new strategic investments…particularly in emerging markets” and is expanding its facilities in Xochimilco (Mexico) and Campinas (Brazil).

This will reduce Merck’s manufacturing network from 91 plants to 77, including 29 animal health facilities which are not a part of the restructuring plan that is expected to generate savings of between $2.7-$3.1 billion towards its $3.5 billion target by 2012. The rest should come from the company’s “ongoing procurement savings initiative”.

Merck says it continues to expect workforce reductions of 15% globally under the programme, or some 15,000 jobs. It added pretax costs for the initial phases of the merger restructuring will be $3.5-$4.3 billion, up from an estimate issued earlier this year of $2.6-$3.3 billion.

Chief executive Richard Clark said “these changes are crucial to drive future growth and realise the promise of being a global health care leader for the long term”. He added that “while we believe these actions are necessary to support Merck's competitive advantage, they required difficult decisions” and “we will implement our restructuring plans with the utmost care and respect for the hard-working and talented employees of Merck”.