A DRUGS manufacturer has safeguarded more than 1,000 jobs at a North-East factory but said it could not confirm any future investment at the plant.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which employs 1,150 people at Barnard Castle, County Durham, yesterday revealed group sales had dropped by one per cent in 2012, with its European market falling by seven per cent.

The company, which had a turnover of £26m, blamed the results on the austere market, and said it hoped to save £1bn by 2016 through an extensive service review.

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It said it remained committed to Barnard Castle, the headquarters of its skin division, after spending £20m to create a dermatology centre of excellence on the site.

The plant last year lost out on a £350m investment to its sister site in Ulverston, Cumbria, but a spokesman said the factory, which also makes antibiotics and liquid fillings for injections and nasal sprays - and the company - were in a strong position.

He said: “We always feel we are in a good position because of our dermatology centre of excellence, which is a great part of our business.”

The company could not confirm if Barnard Castle would be used to develop the company's 15 new products, but GSK chief executive, Sir Andrew Witty, said he expected the business to deliver long-term growth.

He said: “We have six new products under regulatory review and have the potential to launch 15 products globally in the next three years.

“Allied to our stronger, globally diversified sales base, this provides a clear platform for growth, with 2013 marking the start of what should be a series of growth years.”

GSK saw consumer healthcare sales grow by five per cent, and sales of pharmaceutical and vaccines products in the US dropped by only two per cent, which was an improvement on 2011 results when sales fell by five per cent. Sir Andrew said it would also carry out a review on iconic brands, Lucozade and Ribena, to enhance its status outside of their established western markets, and address its position in the European market.

He said: “We have returned more than £6.3bn to shareholders and made outstanding progress to advance potential new medicines across multiple disease areas including respiratory, oncology, diabetes and HIV.

“We also plan a restructuring of our European pharmaceuticals business to reduce costs to support growth opportunities, which supports our strategy of delivering sustainable long-term growth.”