The Unstable Pill: Why Working in Big Pharma Can Lead to Layoffs

Richard A Meyer
3 min readJun 4, 2024

Pursuing life-saving drugs and groundbreaking treatments often paints a picture of a booming, stable industry. However, beneath the surface of this multibillion-dollar sector lies a volatile reality: frequent layoffs. Working in Big Pharma can feel like walking a tightrope for many professionals. But why is an industry so vital to global health and so flush with revenue prone to shedding jobs?

1. Patent Cliffs and Revenue Decline

One of the most significant challenges facing pharmaceutical companies is the so-called “patent cliff.” When a blockbuster drug’s patent expires, generic manufacturers can produce cheaper versions, drastically cutting into the original manufacturer’s market share and revenue. This loss in revenue can be substantial, prompting companies to downsize as a cost-saving measure.

For example, when a significant drug like Lipitor or Humira goes off-patent, the originating company often faces a steep drop in sales. Without a robust pipeline of new, profitable drugs to replace the revenue, layoffs become a go-to strategy for maintaining financial stability.

2. High R&D Costs and Low Success Rates

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Richard A Meyer

Marketing and Political thought leader — Writer- Audiophile