By Pat Loeb

LOWER GWYNEDD, Pa. (CBS) — Five hundred employees of Merck Pharmaceuticals in Lower Gwynedd (Montgomery County) are getting layoff notices this month, part of a company plan to downsize by 20 percent.

Merck announced last month that it would cut 8,500 jobs in an effort to cut expenses by $2½ billion, but didn’t specify where they would be (see previous story).

Now, it has sent a federally required notice to the Pennsylvania Labor Department revealing that 500 of the cuts would be at its West Point facility.

Merck spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty declined to say what jobs are being cut but says more than 8,000 employees will remain there.

“West Point is home to a manufacturing facility as well as research and development and office space,” she said.

Dougherty says the layoffs will take effect between December 23rd and January 5th.

“We will be providing appropriate support during their transition,” she added.

Merck’s chief executive has said the cuts will lead to “transformational change” for the company by eliminating inefficiencies.

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