Boehringer Ingelheim has been forced to announce the planned closure of a UK manufacturing site as a result of pricing pressures that mean the firm is unable to produce unit dose vials (UDVs) at the site cost-effectively.
The Bracknell plant will be closed down over the next three years, though there will be no effect on employment until 2009, with the majority of phasing out activities and final closure not expected until the second half of 2010.
Boehringer will transfer production of the vials to a European contract manufacturer, though further details as to the identity of the outsourcing firm were not forthcoming.
The sterile vials manufactured at the Bracknell site are produced in strips of 10, containing a sterile liquid with 1ml or 2ml of active ingredient. Patients then squirt this liquid into a nebuliser and inhale to treat their respiratory ailments.
As of 2010, these vials will be manufactured outside the UK by Boehringer's European CMO.
The decision has been driven by the fact that the company does not foresee any new products in UDV form in the Boehringer pipeline, and the firm has decided to shift its focus to more advanced device technologies for respiratory products.
A prime example of this change is the company's recently launched Respimat soft-mist inhaler, a next-generation propellant-free inhaler developed jointly with Pfizer.
The old-fashioned UDV products simply were not crucial enough to Boehringer's portfolio to warrant the expense of manufacturing them at the UK plant.
"In the UK we face incredible low priced competition for the UDV format, we couldn't compete," a company spokesperson told in-PharmaTechnologist.com.
The company deliberately opted for an early decision so as to give current employees time to plan for the future (perhaps another sign of why the company was today named as the top employer in the industry according to a Science survey).
While the full closure of plant is expected in the second half of 2010, the dates are not set in stone and could possibly change, in-PharmaTechnologist.com was told.
The Boehringer announcement this week is the latest sign of the cost pressures that are causing the closure of a number of manufacturing sites as firms battle to compete with cheaper production options offered by companies in low cost locations.
With Amgen announcing last week that it is putting plans for its new Irish plant on hold indefinitely, and pharma heavyweights Pfizer and AstraZeneca just two of the other names in full cost-cutting swing, production plants are dropping like flies to the unyielding axe of the consolidation drive pre-occupying pharma these days.
With no sign of the pressure on the sector easing in the foreseeable future, this is unlikely to be the last of the closures we see in the industry.