Novartis says no plans to cut thousands of jobs

ZURICH, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG NOVN.VX has no plans to slash thousands of jobs, a spokesman for the company said on Sunday, rebutting a Swiss newspaper report.

Sunday newspaper Sonntag said Novartis was planning a cost-cutting programme similar to cross-town rival Roche Holding AG ROG.VX, quoting two unnamed sources close to Novartis management.

“I do not know who the company’s sources are but we do not plan a programme similar to Roche’s,” Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff said.

Roche, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, said on Wednesday it would slash 4,800 jobs worldwide, hacking 2.4 billion Swiss francs ($2.5 billion) from annual costs. [ID:nLDE6AF29X]

Novartis, maker of high blood pressure drug Diovan, set out its long-term strategy on the same day but remained tight-lipped about job cuts, only saying it wanted to cut costs in manufacturing, marketing and sales, and procurement, in an effort to improve profitability.

Sonntag reported a massive cost-cutting programme would be announced but Althoff said he could not confirm this information.

The pharmaceutical industry is struggling as patents for some best-selling drugs expire and price pressures rise in the United States and Europe.

Novartis will have to deal with a number of key drugs such as multi-billion dollar seller Diovan losing patent protection over the next few years.

Germany's Bayer AG BAYGn.DE announced a 1 billion euro ($1.4 billion) cost-cutting programme this week in response to government austerity measures and generic competition. [ID:nLDE6AH20M] (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.7158 Euro) ($1=.9607 Swiss Franc)