Widespread job cuts are expected at German pharmaceutical firm Merck KGaA as part of a significant restructuring of the company.

Through the shake-up, the firm aims to reduce costs in order to address increasing competition for its key products. In particular, for its best selling drug Rebif, an injectable multiple sclerosis treatment, which has lost a considerable ground following the introduction of oral MS medicines, such as Novartis‘s Gilenya.

Merck chairman Karl-Ludwig Kley said that the job losses were regrettable, and confirmed that no particular figures relating to the efficiency programme have been published yet.

"We have a view on what needs to be achieved, but we will consult with the employee representatives on a country-by-country basis and we will consider any pragmatic proposals," Kley said.

The number of jobs due to be lost has remained undisclosed; Merck will now consult employee representatives in different countries in order to seek ‘socially acceptable solutions’.

The employee reductions come part of a much wider transformation programme, launched in two phases. The first phase of the programme will see the implementation of a new leadership organisation and a new long-term growth strategy.

The second phase of the will see Merck analyse industry and macroeconomic trends in order to identify and move into new growth areas.