By Rocky Swift

TOKYO (Reuters) – Takeda Pharmaceutical Co <4502.T> is looking to cut sales jobs in Japan in its latest restructuring effort, as it overhauls domestic business following its $59 billion purchase of Shire Plc, sources familiar with the company’s plans said.

Major pharma companies in Japan have scaled down their sales forces to cope with a shrinking market and cuts in drug prices imposed by the national health system.

The layoffs by Takeda, Japan’s biggest drug maker, will be focused on sales positions, two industry sources told Reuters requesting anonymity to protect professional obligations.

Takeda wants to reduce its ranks of medical representatives, who promote drugs to doctors and hospitals, and rely more on contract sales organisations to improve flexibility, said one of the people.

Neither source had an estimate for the number of job cuts nor the timing.

“We are not considering job cuts,” a Takeda spokesman said. “We are considering a voluntary early-retirement programme,” the spokesman said, adding the company was now in consultation with the labour union over the programme.

He denied that Takeda was looking to reduce its ranks of medical representatives and rely more on contract sales organisations.

Takeda announced earlier this month it would focus on five business areas in Japan and revamp its human resources system. The plan involves a move away from Japan’s typical lifetime employment system.

It announced a pause in new drug trials in March except for its plasma-derived COVID-19 therapy. The company is due to report quarterly results on Friday.

The purchase of Shire, completed early last year, diversified Takeda’s global sales, with about half now coming from the United States.

But the deal also saddled the drugmaker with a large debt pile and Takeda is seeking to shed $10 billion in non-core assets to reduce leverage.

Takeda’s shares slid 0.4% in Tokyo trading versus a 1.2% decline in the broader market.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Stephen Coates & Shri Navaratnam)

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