Diversified healthcare company Johnson & Johnson said on Thursday it was eliminating 900 positions from its Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceutical unit in the latest downsizing move in the drug industry.

The reductions occurred across Ortho-McNeil-Janssen, but the majority of the jobs impacted were from sales, spokeswoman Kara Russell said.

Russell said attrition and hiring freezes were involved in the overall reduction, but she declined to say just how many people were losing their jobs.

Some employees were informed earlier this week that their positions were being eliminated, Russell said.

J&J owns more than 250 operating companies and employs about 119,000 people worldwide. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen is one legal entity that includes several divisions, Russell said.

Virtually all of the major pharmaceutical companies have announced significant job cuts over the past couple of years as lucrative drugs lose patent protection and few important new medicines reach the market to replace them.

Sales forces have often been at the forefront of the cuts as competition from cheap generic medicines takes a toll and with doctors looking to spend less time with drug company representatives.

If you focus on the physician, there's information that shows that they are becoming far more specific about how, when and where they want to receive information about pharmaceutical products, Russell said.

The decision, as extremely difficult as it was, was a first step in Ortho-McNeil-Janssen's revisiting its model of how it meets the needs of its multiple stakeholders including prescribing physicians, payers, policy makers and other caregivers, Russell said.

While calling it a first step, Russell said that does not necessarily mean more job cuts are in the offing.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing Bernard Orr)