UK drugs major AstraZeneca has unveiled plans to shed 700 jobs at its manufacturing plant in Macclesfield over the next three years as part of its cost-cutting strategy announced earlier this month.

The firm said that the cuts, which represents less than a third of its 2,500 workforce at the unit, form part of a plan to improve "the overall efficiency and effectiveness of supply and manufacturing operations" and “maintain a competitive financial performance" during the difficult times that are facing the pharmaceuticals giant, in terms of price cuts and patent expiries. However, it also stated that "AstraZeneca's Macclesfield site continues to be integral to the company's global supply chain and will remain one of the largest worldwide supply sites."

As proof of its commitment to the site, AstraZeneca said it would be investing £63.5m in a new R&D laboratory, representing its largest single investment in the plant. Construction will start on the new facility with immediate effect, with an aim to commence operations in mid 2009.

The company acknowledged the uncertainty that this decision will cause at the Macclesfield facility but promised that the restructuring will be managed sensitively and professionally and appropriate consultation will take place.

The move comes three weeks after AstraZeneca announced that it would shed 3,000 jobs, or about 4.5% of the workforce, which is part of a $500 million, three-year revamp of the firm's supply chain and attempt to boost productivity and are likely to be made in distribution and manufacturing.