Merck to lay off thousands more by 2015

Merck plans to slash up to 13,000 more jobs by 2015, the latest large pharmaceutical corporation seeking to offset slowing sales by cutting costs.

Merck expects to continue hiring in growth areas of its business, including emerging markets. The company also will stick with expansion plans at its massive Durham operations, which packages and eventually will grow vaccines to protect against chicken pox and other diseases.

Officials expect to hire more than 150 people at that campus this year, adding to the 450 jobs created during the past few years.

Merck also continues to expand a packaging facility in Wilson that employs about 350 people.

Company spokesman David Caouette told the Associated Press that 35 percent to 40 percent of the new job cuts will be in the U.S., but that he couldn't provide specifics.

The cost-cutting news follows a similar strategy at other big drug makers, including Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. Faced with increasing generic competition and lower reimbursements from government health programs, the companies are reducing expenses, pushing harder to find promising new drugs and fine-tuning their business to appease investors.

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