Amgen begins layoffs at Rhode Island facility

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. Amgen, one of Rhode Island’s largest employers, has begun reducing its staff as the company prepares to shut down one of the two drug production facilities at its West Greenwich complex, the Providence Journal reported.

A segment of the plant’s 1,600 employees has been offered a buyout package that includes a lump-sum payment, a period of continued health insurance and career counseling, Amgen spokesman Larry Bernard said. Employees who have worked for Amgen less than five years are ineligible. The individual "voluntary transition program" packages, part of a companywide program, are structured based on an employee’s salary and tenure.

Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., has not disclosed how many Rhode Island positions will be eliminated as part of an effort, announced Aug. 15, to reduce capital expenses company-wide by $1.9 billion.

The plan, as announced last month, calls for a 14-percent reduction in the company’s worldwide staff. If distributed equally across all facilities, that would mean 224 Rhode Island employees would lose their jobs.

Amgen pointed to the lower revenues from Aranesp and Epogen— due to Food and Drug Administration changes in approved labeling—as a reason for the changes. "At Amgen we have always been committed to investing in the future while squarely facing the challenges of today," said Kevin Sharer, Amgen’s chairman and chief executive officer. "Recent changes in coverage rules and adjustments to Amgen’s FDA approved labels for Epogen and Aranesp have and will adversely affect Amgen’s revenue. The initiatives announced today respond to that new reality by taking account of reduced revenues and appropriately lowering costs across the company. We will continue to strongly support our research efforts directed at development of new medicines for grievously ill patients. These changes will also position Amgen for success in 2008 and beyond."

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