[This report has been updated from an earlier version to include highlights of GSK's statement on its restructing initiatives].

GlaxoSmithKline is eliminating about 900 jobs in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park as part of a £1 billion (about $1.6 billion) company-wide global R&D restructuring announced in October, Derek Lowe reported this morning on his Corante blog.

“GlaxoSmithKline itself seems to have basically exited North Carolina, which is a damned shame. That site has a long history, and a lot of good work has been done there,” Lowe commented.

In a statement, GSK did not confirm Corante's reported number of jobs to be eliminated, or say how many jobs it will ultimately eliminate: “We expect as part of this restructure existing roles will be lost in our US R&D and commercial organizations by the end of 2015.”

“The majority of jobs affected are in Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC, as we consolidate our geographic footprint and locate the majority of our R&D organization into two major centers– in the Philadelphia area and Stevenage (UK),” GSK stated.

At least half the number of reported job cuts at RTP may not take place. GSK said it signed a letter of intent to create a dedicated GSK business unit within Parexel: “It will provide a variety of clinical development services and be largely based in the RTP area.

“Approximately 450 employees currently working in R&D in RTP will be offered roles at Parexel,” GSK stated. “Some R&D roles will be relocated to the Philadelphia area and some staff will be offered relocation.  We will be working with local employers to support staff securing re-employment.”

Yet Philadelphia may also see job cuts, according to GSK: “The reduction of jobs in our US Pharmaceuticals business will affect employees in Philadelphia, RTP and the field.  Retail sales teams focused on launching new medicines to the market will largely not be affected.”

“In the US, we are reshaping and reducing the size of our commercial and R&D operations (now 17,000 employees) to be more agile to flex with shifting market demands. Cuts are not being made across the board but are strategic, focused changes to allow GSK to operate more efficiently,” the company said.

“This is not a change in our strategy, which has helped us deliver more new medicines than any other company in the industry in the past 18 months. This is a rescaling of work to reflect market forces that were anticipated but that have accelerated and are affecting the entire industry,” GSK asserted.

At least one staffer tweeted that he had hoped for more details: Shocking lack of information being conveyed by #GSK,” tweeted Charles Henry, whose Twitter self-description reads in part, “scientist by profession.”

Henry also tweeted that GSK will disclose “next week” which therapeutic areas it will exit. According to its website, GSK now has 12 therapeutic areas—respiratory, anti-viral, central nervous system, cardiovascular and urogenital, metabolic, anti-bacterials, oncology and emesis, dermatology, rare diseases, immune-inflammation, ViiV healthcare, and “other.” ViiV is a venture of GSK, Pfizer, and Shionogi focused on advancing HIV treatments.

GSK's statement hinted at fewer therapeutic areas wthout offering specifics: “Our proposed changes to R&D will sharpen the focus in discovery and development and reduce funding in certain areas of the pipeline.”

Yet in April, GSK agreed to sell its cancer business to Novartis as part of a series of deals totaling $28.5 billion. As part of those deals, Novartis sold off most vaccine operations except flu vaccines to GSK, and formed a consumer health joint venture with GSK.

The reported job cuts come more than a month after GSK disclosed it would carry out a global restructuring that would save it as much as £1 billion (about $1.6 billion) in annual expenses over three years.

GSK is responding in part to declining sales for long best-selling Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol; also marketed as Seretide) therapy for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Advair lost patent protection in the U.S. in 2010, and in Europe last year. Insurers have successfully pushed for lower prices for older medicines in recent years.

While GSK has launched new respiratory drugs to market over the past year, such as Breo Ellipta, they have not to date picked up the sales slack.

For example, during the first nine months of 2014, Advair/Seretide racked up £3.11 billion ($4.9 billion) in sales—down 14% globally from January–September 2013. U.S. sales of the treatment fell 24% during that same period, to £1.424 billion ($2.2 billion). Breo Ellipta finished Q1-3 2014 with £29 million ($45.5 million), of which £14 million ($) was generated in the U.S.

“The transition in our respiratory business is significant and clearly challenging. However, we remain confident we can maintain long-term leadership in this area and based on our current estimates, we expect that total global respiratory sales (residual and new products) will return to growth in 2016,” GSK stated October 22 in its press release announcing third-quarter 2014 results.

The company also offered an encouraging bit of respiratory drug news: Breo for COPD had 72% Medicare Part D coverage, whilst Anoro had around 50% as of late October.

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