[Reuters]

Merck & Co, taking a cue from rival drugmakers that have slashed research spending to bolster earnings, said it will cut annual operating costs by $2.5 billion and eliminate 8,500 jobs, or more than 10 percent of its global workforce.

Merck, whose shares rose 2.3 percent, said it aims to narrow its focus to products with the best chance of winning regulatory approval and achieving substantial sales.

It will jettison research products with less likelihood of success. It plans to pull the plug on some drugs already in late-stage trials, and will license some products to other companies.

The job cuts would be in addition to expected remaining cuts of 7,500 positions from a 2011 restructuring that involved elimination of 13,000 positions – largely of administrative personnel but also related to sale or closure of manufacturing sites.

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