British drug maker AstraZeneca is eliminating 700 jobs across the United States, including at its North America commercial headquarters in Wilmington.

The company said in a statement that it "will transform its commercial business as part of the company's return to growth strategy."

The job cuts come as AstraZeneca continues to face a loss of patent exclusivity on medicines, the announcement said.

"We have made the necessary but difficult decisions that are required to reflect our lower U.S. revenues in 2017. We will reduce U.S. commercial business expenses, which includes the elimination of about 700 positions (roughly 80 of those will come from existing vacancies) and a reduction in discretionary spend."

"Out of the 700 positions impacted, approximately 120 people with roles based at the Wilmington site have been eliminated," an AstraZeneca spokeswoman said. "The remaining impacted roles are field-based roles across the U.S. and include both sales and non-sales."

AstraZeneca will employ about 1,500 in Delaware.

AstraZeneca has been cutting operations in Delaware and in 2013 announced that it would eliminate or move 1,200 jobs in Wilmington by the end of 2015, with research and development functions going mainly to Gaithersburg, Md.

The pharmaceutical giant has struggled in recent years as profits for key drugs plummeted because of generic competition.

Previously, AstraZeneca said it had 2,100 employees in Delaware, including at a manufacturing plant in Newark. That was down from about 5,000 a decade ago.

A company spokeswoman said Thursday the 2,100 headcount had included global functions based in Wilmington, contractor jobs, and manufacturing positions in Newark.  "Following this announcement, AstraZeneca will have approximately 1,500 employees working in the state of Delaware."

AstraZeneca announced in April it was looking at a restructuring plan to save about $1.1 billion annually.   In September, the company said it was closing its Fort Washington office and filed a notice with the state of Pennsylvania that the move would affect 134 people.

At the time, AstraZeneca said the Fort Washington jobs would shift, as of Oct. 3, to Wilmington.  Some of the latest cuts announced Thursday affect workers who transferred from Fort Washington to Delaware.

The job cuts "include all areas of the U.S. commercial business, including roles previously based in Fort Washington," a company spokeswoman said.

In a statement, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said: "My heart goes out to the employees and families impacted by this announcement. While we should continue to be encouraged that Delaware leads the region in job growth and that AstraZeneca will remain an important employer, we must keep working to ensure good jobs are available to every Delawarean who wants one."