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Amgen to Add 1,000 Jobs Despite Biotech Industry Gloom


While the biotechnology industry remains gloomy over the prospect of health care reform, Thousand Oaks-based Amgen Inc. on Wednesday offered investors a ray of optimism, saying it expects to add 1,000 jobs during the next year.

The statement on new hiring came from Amgen Chairman Gordon Binder at a conference sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Assn. in Washington. The news was well received by Wall Street: Amgen's shares rose $1.50 to close at $38.50 on the NASDAQ market.

Amgen is a bellwether for biotechnology stocks, which have taken a beating this year in response to disappointing clinical results for several promising new drugs, as well as concerns that the Clinton Administration will propose drug price controls as part of its health care reform package.

Although a draft proposal of Clinton's plan includes no mandatory controls, it would create a government review board to evaluate prices of new "breakthrough" drugs and require steep discounts for drugs used by Medicare patients. Biotechnology executives say those proposals--which the industry will push hard to have stricken from the final plan to be announced Wednesday--are tantamount to price controls.

Coming against that background, it was no surprise that Binder's remarks that Amgen plans to boost employment from the current 2,900 to about 3,900 worldwide during the next year was seen as a sign of hope on Wall Street.

Amgen spokeswoman Kimberly Dorsey said the majority of the new hiring will come at its corporate offices in Thousand Oaks, where 2,100 people now work. Other hiring will occur in Asia, Australia and Puerto Rico, where the company is expanding operations.

Dorsey said the expansion does not represent a big change in Amgen's hiring forecast. "We've been hiring on this same order or more aggressively in past years," she said.

She added that there is no guarantee the hiring goal will be met. "If the health care environment changes for any reason," she said, "we may need to make some adjustments."

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