Md. lawmakers fear layoffs if Pfizer buys AstraZeneca

Maryland congressional lawmakers are concerned about the future of the 3,000 Pfizer employees in their state if the company takes over British drugmaker AstraZeneca.

In a letter to Pfizer CEO Ian Read on Monday, six Democratic members from Maryland asked the company to assure its employees in the state they would be able to keep their jobs.

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“It has been widely reported that if a deal moves forward, Pfizer has committed to keeping at least 20 percent of the combined company’s research and development workforce in the U.K. for at least five years, as well as retaining substantial manufacturing facilities at AstraZeneca’s site south of Manchester,” wrote the legislators. “We ask you to extend similar assurances to those you gave in the U.K. to the research and development workforce in Maryland.”

The lawmakers touted Maryland's skilled labor force and the fact the National Institutes of Health is based in the state.

Across the pond, British lawmakers also grilled Read on Tuesday before a parliamentary hearing asking for guarantees the New York-based drugmaker would keep a substantial research and development workforce in the U.K. The British government is considering legislation to prevent the takeover in a bid to protect its domestic jobs.

Pfizer made a similar failed bid to buy out AstraZeneca earlier this year for $106 billion. However, the company is expected to make a better offer before May 26, which could lead to one of the largest pharmaceutical mergers in history.

Like much of the pharmaceutical industry, Pfizer and AstraZeneca have fallen off the proverbial patent cliff in the past few years and are no longer making huge profits from several blockbuster drugs. Their drug development pipelines have also seen major setbacks as clinical trials for promising drugs have failed to bear fruit.

A merger would let both companies trim the fat while trying to invest in new drugs.

The Democrats' letter to Read was signed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, Chris Van Hollen, John Sarbanes and John Delaney.