Takeda Pharmaceutical’s sell-off of part of its business to Celltrion is expected to take away jobs of over 70 employees of Takeda Pharmaceuticals Korea, observers said.
Takeda Korea workers said they abruptly became subject to the early retirement program (ERP) without any prior notice from the company.
On Thursday, the Japanese multinational drugmaker sold its business rights for 18 prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in the Asia-Pacific region to Celltrion, a Korean biopharmaceutical firm. The 18 drugs are sold in Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. The 18 items included Takeda Korea’s five prescription drugs, including diabetes and hypertension treatments, and three OTC medicines for cold.
After the announcement of the sell-off, Takeda Korea said it would carry out ERP in all primary care business division and consumer healthcare division that are selling the 18 drugs, without guaranteeing that Celltrion would keep their employment.
Celltrion said the sell-off deal did not include discussion over the continued employment of Takeda Korea workers, adding that “the issue is something Takeda Pharmaceutical should handle.”
Takeda Korea said, “The company is reviewing measures to support employees who are to be affected by the deal as much as possible.”
Industry watchers said Celltrion would have no reason to guarantee the jobs of Takeda Korea workers.
For years, Takeda Korea has been selling the 18 drugs through co-promotion contracts with local drug companies, including Jeil Pharmaceutical, Dong-A ST, GC Pharma, and HK inno. N (the new name of CJ Healthcare). As long as Celltrion keeps the contracts, it can buy Takeda’s business without a problem in drug sales.
In the early years of the Korean branch, Takeda Korea used to directly promote drugs at general hospitals and seek partnership with local drug companies for sales at clinics.
From 2017, however, Takeda Korea expanded co-promotion programs into general hospitals with over 300 hospital beds.
The move prompted salespersons of Takeda Korea to suspect that the company tried to compete against local companies and reduce the number of drug sales representatives. From then on, drug sales reps at Takeda Korea started to feel insecure about their employment.
“The company kept denying it until the last minute, but the suspicion over the sell-off of the chronic disease business division emerged a long time ago,” a salesperson at Takeda Korea said.
The latest sell-off has long been predicted since his colleagues lost their roles of promoting drugs at hospitals to workers of local drug companies which co-promote their medications, he added.
The salesperson noted that Celltrion has a domestic sales network only in autoimmune diseases and cancer. Therefore, he said that Celltrion would have no reason to take over the employment of Takeda Korea workers.
Korea Democratic Pharmaceutical Union (KDPU), where unionized workers of Takeda Korea belong, declared a war against the management of Takeda Korea.
“Takeda Korea’s stance, saying ‘We don’t need you, so leave,’ shows that the company regards employees as consumables that it can throw away when needed,” a KDPU member said. “All of our unionized members, including those at Takeda Korea, will deal with this.”
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