Orange County’s pharmaceutical industry registered far fewer employees this year, in large part due to Chicago biopharmaceutical giant, AbbVie Inc., which reported a 47% drop in local employees to 1,506 as of this month.
That drop is both due to a revised method for calculating which employees are part of the Irvine office of AbbVie and a workforce cut following its 2019 takeover of the Irvine operations of the Botox maker.
The Irvine-based aesthetics operations of AbbVie are still the largest of all drugmakers doing business in the county, according to the latest Business Journal rankings of the region’s top drugmakers by employee count.
AbbVie is the maker of the blockbuster arthritis and Crohn’s disease medicine Humira.
It wasn’t the only local firm to shed employees over the past year, with four of the 10 companies reporting reductions, while just two reported increases. The remaining four are Business Journal estimates.
In total, the OC pharmaceutical industry headcount dropped 35% to 2,445 as of April compared to the year ago number, according to the annual Business Journal survey of 10 local companies.
AbbVie, based in North Chicago, Ill., confirmed to the Business Journal that its Irvine headcount fell to 1,506 as of this month from 2,822 a year ago.
An AbbVie spokesperson told the Business Journal that “the information provided in 2023 includes those employees based in the Irvine headquarters.”
“The number provided in 2022 reflected not only headquarters employees, but also field-based employees across California,” the spokesperson said. The difference “is just a result of how the information was filtered and reported.”
Separately, AbbVie notified California state authorities in September that it planned to lay off 99 people.
“AbbVie’s workers are being let go from a single facility in Irvine, which the city’s chamber of commerce lists as an Allergan manufacturing site,” industry website Fierce Pharma said last September. AbbVie bought Botox maker Allergan for $63 billion in 2019.
AbbVie’s 2022 annual report says the company has a research and development facility in Irvine, as well as a manufacturing facility.
Companywide, AbbVie reported its employment was steady at 50,000 workers.
Tustin-based Avid Bioservices Inc. (Nasdaq: CDMO), a contract maker of biologics, was once again No. 2 on the list, after pushing its headcount up by almost 4% to 350 employees (see story, page 11).
Dendreon Pharmaceuticals in Seal Beach was No. 3 as its estimated headcount stayed steady at 150. The company makes Provenge, an immunotherapy for prostate cancer.
Of the 10 companies ranked in the Business Journal annual survey, seven are headquarterd in Orange County.
The largest employment jump on the list came from Irvine-based Tarsus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: TARS), a development stage drugmaker with an initial focus on eyecare. It boosted its workforce from 50 to 70 to rank No.7, up two slots from the year prior.
The largest employment decline on a percentage basis was the Irvine office of Nevada-based Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Inc., which saw its headcount decline 57% to 27 employees.
The remaining OC-based companies include:
• BioDuro Sundia, a contract research development and manufacturing company in Irvine, came in at No. 4 with local employees down slightly to 128.
• Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals Inc., based in Aliso Viejo and a provider of several drugs, was No. 5 with an estimated 93 local workers.
• Urovant Sciences Inc. in Irvine, a maker of treatments for urologic disorders, trimmed its headcount to 76 from 86 and came in at No. 6.
• Stason Pharmaceuticals, a drug development, manufacturing and distribution company in Irvine, was in eighth place with an estimated 35 employees.