* To cut up to 500 jobs in pharmaceuticals division
* Will create new roles in oncology, OTC, Sandoz
* Swiss headcount should remain stable at 15,000 (Adds details)
ZURICH, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis plans to reorganise parts of its domestic workforce, cutting up to 500 jobs in its pharmaceutical division to free resources for new roles to support the product launches, the company said on Tuesday.
The redeployment comes as new chairman Joerg Reinhardt casts a fresh eye over the company’s operations as part of a portfolio review.
The Basel-based company said the changes should lead to an equal number of jobs being cut and created in Switzerland this year. It expects its overall headcount in the country to remain stable at about 15,000 people.
Patent expiries on top-selling products and a growing squeeze on medicine prices by cash-strapped governments has prompted global drugmakers to cut tens of thousands of jobs in recent years.
Novartis said the reshuffle should help to support the launch of new products this year, including branded and generic respiratory drugs and treatments for heart disease, lung cancer and skin disease.
The company hopes to win approval this year for its heart failure drug serelaxin and secukinumab, a treatment for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, among others.
As part of the reorganisation, the axe will fall on its pharmaceutical division, where Novartis plans to cut up to 500 jobs. Most will be in support functions at its headquarters as well as operational roles in development.
At the same time, it plans to add several hundred positions in areas including oncology development, over-the-counter manufacturing and supply chain management at its generics unit Sandoz.
It said the reorganisation would not affect its active clinical trial programmes in Switzerland.
Last November Novartis announced plans to close sites in England and Austria and said it would cut about 500 jobs at its research operations. (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Goodman)