NEW YORK (AP) – Drug giant Pfizer Inc. plans to lay off nearly a third of its 8,000 salespeople, according to published reports.

Media outlets Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal report Pfizer will cut as many as 2,400 sales representatives.

New York-based Pfizer Inc., the world’s No. 1 drugmaker by revenue, declined to comment on the reports, which come the same week as it confirmed it is cutting the jobs of up to 800 scientists and other research staff.

The latest sales division cuts would follow elimination of roughly 2,000 sales jobs under a massive restructuring that began two years ago and resulted in about 14,600 jobs being slashed.

“We don’t comment on rumors or speculation,” company spokesman Ray Kerins said in a statement.

“We will continually look for ways to operate our business in a more effective and efficient way,” he said.

Pfizer has been working to lower costs ahead of generic competition expected in late 2011 for its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor, which brings in nearly $13 billion a year. Competition is likely to cut sales drastically.

The company is widely expected to make an official announcement about layoffs when it reports on its 2008 fourth-quarter and full-year financial results, on Jan. 28.

Last October, Pfizer said that it was replacing its current geographic divisions with new ones centered on primary care, specialty care and operations in emerging markets. At the time, Kerins said that that shift would not involve layoffs, but that he could not speculate on what would happen in the future.

The prior month, Pfizer announced it was narrowing its research focus to six disease areas – Alzheimer’s, cancer, schizophrenia, pain, inflammation and diabetes – and abandoning new research in other areas, including cardiovascular research.

Pfizer had been one of the dominant companies in that field with Lipitor, the world’s top-selling drug.

In early afternoon trading, Pfizer shares were down 14 cents at $17.25.

AP-ES-01-16-09 1423EST


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