By Daniel Hunter

7,300 jobs are set to be cut over the next two years at Anglo-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca.

The cuts will form part of a restructuring programme at the company, with the GMB Union confirming that around 300 of those jobs will be in R&D at the firm's site in Alderley Park, Cheshire.

AstraZeneca announced a fall in pre-tax profits for the three months to the end of December to $2.05 billion (£1.32 billion) compared with $2.28 billion in 2010.

"These cutting edge R&D [research and development] jobs are both well paid and essential for a thriving UK economy," said Allan Black from the GMB.

AstraZeneca blamed increased competition for the fall in fourth quarter profits.

"Disciplined execution of our strategy has delivered a good performance in 2011, in the face of intensified pricing pressure and generic competition," said chief executive David Brennan.

"While the further expected losses of market exclusivity make for a challenging 2012 outlook, we remain committed to a long-term, focused, R&D based strategy and today have announced further steps to drive productivity in all areas."

It is a further blow to pharmaceutical companies in the UK, following last year's closure of Pfizer's research and development plant in Sandwich.

The New York based pharmaceutical giant closed their research and development site last year, at the cost of 2,400 jobs.

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