AstraZeneca says it will "streamline portions of its US commercial business", a move which will result in the loss of 400 posts.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker says the changes will enable it "to compete in a challenging environment, including pricing pressures and the continuing growth of generic medicines". Beyond 2016, AstraZeneca faces patent expirations to a couple of blockbusters - the lipid-lowerer Crestor (rosuvastatin) and the anti-psychotic Seroquel XR (quetiapine) - and it is already being hit hard by copycat versions of the blood pressure drug Toprol XL/Seloken (metoprolol) and Arimidex (anastrozole) for breast cancer.

The job losses are at the company’s US headquarters in Wilmington Delaware and "some field-based, non-sales roles". About 70 of the 400 roles will come from existing vacancies, while other employees can apply for voluntary redundancy. All decisions will be finalised by early December.

Rich Fante, AstraZeneca's North America chief, said “this will be very difficult for our entire organisation, particularly the people who are directly impacted". However, he added that "these changes are necessary to build a leaner, more efficient" company.

Another Seroquel XR patent dispute solved

Meantime, having reached a settlement last week with the USA's Handa Pharmaceuticals which prevents the latter from selling a generic form of Seroquel XR until the end of 2016, AstraZeneca has entered into a similar agreement with Accord Healthcare.

Jusrt like the Handa deal, Accord now says it does not dispute that the patent asserted by AstraZeneca in the US litigation is valid and enforceable. In return, the latter has bagged  a license to sell its version of the blockbuster from November 1, 2016 (the same as Handa).

Seroquel XR is protected by patents and other exclusivity rights that range from March 2012 to November 2017 and other patent infringement litigations concerning the drug remain on-going.