Iroko Pharmaceuticals LLC, which laid off about 30 people last September, sent out pink slips last week to 122 more full- and part-time employees.
The Philadelphia specialty drug maker recently filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry stating that 14 positions had been eliminated at its headquarters at the Navy Yard, along with 108 sales staff who work from home or in the field. The layoffs were effective May 23.
Iroko currently employs 19 people and has three contracted employees at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia. The pharmaceutical company has a lease for all four floors at 150 Rouse Blvd. But the company uses only two floors and subleases one of the floors to Liberty Property Trust and the GBS Group.
The recent layoffs included mid-level managers in facilities, program management, sales operations, and data management planning.
“Right now, we’re really focusing on developing our products,” Iroko spokesman Rand Walton said. “We’re looking at how we can best provide service to our patients and making sure that we’ve got the right mix of marketing,” he said. “We are reidentifying how we can best reach our patients. That was the primary reason for the reduction in staff.”
Iroko makes three non-opioid pain medicines known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. The products include Vivlodex, Tivorbex, and Zorvolex. Iroko uses a technology that reduces the particle size of its pain medications so they dissolve faster and are effective at lower doses, the company said.
One of Iroko’s products — Zorvolex, which treats mild to moderate acute pain and osteoarthritis pain — faces pending generic competition. The company said in December that the Food and Drug Administration had approved Lupin Pharmaceuticals’ generic version of Zorvolex in 18-milligram and 35-milligram capsules.
Iroko chairman Osagie Imasogie told the Inquirer in September that although the company was laying off about 30 corporate and administrative staff, it would add 90 people to the sales force. “There are some cards — and it’s very painful — that we had to drop in order to pick up some that would be more aligned with our more immediate revenue drivers,” he said.
The layoffs come as insurers and other medical service providers have become increasingly cost-conscious, Imasogie said. In many cases, consumers and health providers are choosing generics over prescription drugs. In addition, more cost-conscious customers are opting for over-the-counter pain medicines such as Advil and Aleve.
“Is there pressure on price? Of course there is,” Imasogie said. As prices per item are forced down, Iroko and other pharmaceutical companies need to sell a larger quantity to protect the bottom line.