It looks as though Wyeth is on the verge of announcing major job cuts as patent expiries and delayed product launches take their toll.

A story first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer describes a meeting held at the end of last week which saw managers being told that 10% of 50,000 jobs worldwide could be cut over the next three years. A Wyeth spokesman, Doug Petkus, told the newspaper that discussions had indeed taken place but he added that "nothing is etched in stone, and it is premature to discuss how many or which positions will be affected or how the reductions will be achieved”.

He went on to say that the process “is in its preliminary stages, and we are evaluating a number of options, including workforce reductions". Mr Petkus added that Wyeth will “share the details of this initiative with employees toward the end of March."

One of the problems that has caused the firm to evaluate its future options is the generic threat to its big-selling antiulcerant Protonix (pantoprazole). Wyeth is embroiled in a dispute with Teva which began shipping its version of the drug on December 21, but agreed to a temporary halt for 30 days just two days later to give the companies time to settle an ongoing patent dispute. That ceasefire has been extended until January 31.

The company has also faced difficulties on the regulatory front of late. In August, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an action letter for bifeprunox, an investigational compound for schizophrenia, while a month earlier Pristiq (desvenlafaxine), for depression and the symptoms of menopause, only received an approvable letter.

News of possible job cuts caused barely a murmur among analysts with many following the view that workforce reductions and plant closures are becoming a way of life. The likes of GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and AstraZeneca have all recently announced major restructuring plans.