Schering-Plough is planning to slash its US sales workforce by 20% in a bid to compensate for falling prescriptions of its drugs.

The company announced that 1,000 of its US sales representatives would loose their jobs - effective from 1 October – as part of the firm’s “productivity initiative”, which was announced in April.

Schering-Plough “is changing the organisational structure of its US primary care sales team in order to capture greater efficiencies and better position the field force to meet the needs of customers”, the company said in a statement.

“The company emphasized that it highly values the work of its sales professionals, and so the decision to eliminate positions was difficult.”

The move follows substantial drops in the company’s cholesterol drugs Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe), which saw prescriptions fall by a third this year.

This was not helped by the bad press over Vytorin, which was the subject of several studies that found Vytorin was not only no better with its cholesterol-busting properties than older drugs, but the drug was also found to have a possible link with cancer.

In April, the company said it was looking to save $1.5 billion by the end of 2012 through actions such as staff reductions and plant closures.