Pharmaceutical giant Merck is to cut 7,200 jobs, or roughly 12% of its workforce. Around 40% of the cuts will be in the United States, many of them from management as Merck trims the number of senior and mid-level executives by 25%. The company, based in New Jersey, also plans to close basic-research sites in Tsukuba (Japan), Pomezia (Italy) and Seattle (Washington).

These cuts come on top of the axing of 10,400 positions announced in 2005, which Merck says was "substantially complete" as of last month.

Merck's third-quarter profits were down 28%, and spending on research and development (R&D) dropped by 19% compared with 2007, to $1.2 billion. But the company says that R&D spending actually rose by 2% if expenses from restructuring efforts and the 2007 acquisition of NovaCardia are taken into account.