Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca has ended its partnership with US contract sales organization PDI, potentially wiping a whopping $65-$70 million from the latter’s sales this year.

According to PDI, termination of the contract - as of April 30 - will have a significant financial impact on 2006, and will affect around 800 field representatives, for which it says alternative opportunities are currently being explored.

Commenting on the move, Larry Ellberger, PDI’s interim chief executive, remarked: “This termination…reinforces our commitment to diversify our revenue and client base, particularly in the emerging pharma segment of the industry, while exiting unprofitable activities and reducing our overhead cost structure.”

A spokesman for AstraZeneca told PharmaTimes NewsOnline that it is not unusual for a company to take on a contract sales organisation for set period of time and then for that contract to close. He maintained that the move is not an indication of imminent sales force reductions within the firm, and that AstraZeneca’s internal team will not be affected.

“Managing contract sales organization costs is common in the industry and gives us the flexibility to change our sales force size to react to market changes and to meet customer needs, without directly impacting our full time AstraZeneca sales force,” the company explained in a statement. “We are confident that we are providing, and will continue to provide, the level of resource for our key products (Nexium, Crestor, Arimidex and Seroquel) that is necessary to achieve our expectations for continued growth.”