The international pharmaceutical group Pfizer has announced that it will let 785 people go at its Irish plants. The news comes as the makers of Viagra announced a cost cutting restructuring of its business, which will see 6,000 people lose their jobs.

Pfizer is the world’s largest drug producer and it will be forced to close eight plants worldwide with three of them located in Ireland.

Speaking at an EU/Latin summit in Madrid last night, Irish prime minister Brian Cowen described the job cuts as "very regrettable".

Cowen said that Pfizer bought Wyeth last year for $68billion. Cowen said the cuts within Pfizer were unavoidable.

"They have been looking at their own global strategy and this is having an impact in Ireland.”

Pfizer’s head of manufacturing, Dr Paul Duffy, said senior government officials and ministers had been in touch with Pfizer executives about the redundancies. However Duffy said that there was "not much a government could do when global decisions were being taken”.

Cowen said he was confident that the jobs would be swiftly replaced, as the pharmaceutical sector is "a growth area".

Pfizer will be closing a plant in Dublin and two in Cork.

A spokesman for the Irish Development Agency (IDA) said that Pfizer had recently spent over $550million upgrading the pharmaceutical facilities.

The IDA is confident that the factories will be purchased by another pharmaceutical group.

Pfizer said that some of the staff might relocate to a Pfizer biopharmaceutical campus at Grange Castle in Clondalkin, Co Dublin, where 1,200 people are employed.

Pfizer said it would continue to invest in its Clondalkin operation.
Pfizer’s global manufacturing president Nat Ricciardi said yesterday that the restructuring was "critical to our efforts to remain competitive”.

“We are keenly aware of the impact these types of changes have on employees and their families,” said Ricciardi.

“We will provide support to our colleagues who lose their jobs so that their transition to new careers is as smooth as possible,”

Pfizer’s Cork operations are due to cease between 20123 and 2013 while it's Dun Laoghaire operation will close by 2014.
A further 650 jobs at Pfizer’s nutritionals plant in Co Limerick will anxiously await the outcome of a review which will be starting later this year.

However there is large growth in the nutrition sector and a Pfizer spokesperson said there was a "need for capacity in the network."

Duffy said that Ireland will continue to provide world-class centers of excellence in pharmaceuticals and that it would continue to be a significant supplier in the companies global market.