AstraZeneca has announced plans to restructure its operations in Germany, noting that 500-550 sales and administrative jobs may be affected as the drugmaker aims to improve its efficiency.

"This change has become necessary in light of overcapacity in our primary care sales organisation, which is a consequence of mainly two things," noted Mark Fladrich, AstraZeneca's managing director for German operations. "In the last few years, unexpectedly some important development projects did not reach the German market. Also, we see constantly growing pressure on physicians to prescribe patients [generic drugs] instead of innovative treatments."

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker also revealed that around 400 jobs in Germany are expected to be affected when the company sells or closes its manufacturing plant in Plankstadt by 2009. The plant closure is part of AstraZeneca's plan to eliminate 3,000 positions on a global basis over the next three years in an effort to improve productivity.

MedImmune buy is not ‘act of desperation’

Separately, at the company's annual general meeting, AstraZeneca chairman Louis Schweitzer defended the drugmaker's recent offer to acquire MedImmune for $15.6 billion. Schweitzer noted that the acquisition was "clearly not an act of desperation" because the potential purchase had been under consideration for several months. "We have also considered other opportunities and rejected them," the chairman added.

John Patterson, director of development, told the meeting that “there are many significant advances occurring in the field of biologics,” and the MedImmune acquisition “gives us the ability to attack disease with small molecules, large molecules and vaccines. There are very few places where we could get that overnight.”