GlaxoSmithKline’s chief executive has been stressing the importance of emerging markets and revealed that the firm has shed 2,200 sales jobs in the west, adding the same number of posts outside its traditional areas of growth.

Speaking after the announcement of the company’s third-quarter results, Andrew Witty noted that less than a third of turnover (which reached £6.76 billion) came from “sales of small white pills in the western markets of America and Europe”. Furthermore, he noted that GSK is reallocating its resources to areas of growth and that has led to a major restructuring of field forces.

Mr Witty said that in “just over the last year or so we’ve reduced by around 2,200 the number of sales personnel in our established Western markets, and we’ve increased by around 2,200 the number of sales personnel we have in our emerging and Asia Pacific markets”.

The CEO also praised the performance of GSK’s Consumer Healthcare unit which contributed sales of £1.17 billion, up 8%. He said the rise was mainly due to strong toothpaste revenues, especially for Sensodyne, and nutritional drinks such as Lucozade.

In terms of its pipeline, Mr Witty noted that thirty drugs and vaccines are in late-stage trials. He made particular reference to darapladib, a potential new treatment for atherosclerosis which has met interim safety criteria in the Phase III STABILITY trial, and the beginning of a late-stage programme with partner Theravance, called Horizon, to develop a new treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr Witty added that “we are continuing to reload our pipeline” and “are making sure we don’t go through a boom-and-bust cycle in the future”. Analysts were reasonably impressed with the results but are concerned about the effects of the patent expiry in December on Valtrex (valaciclovir). Third-quarter sales of the herpes treatment reached £349 million.