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Pfizer: Unexpected hike in volumes of post-patent drugs saves Irish jobs

By Dan Stanton+

11-Jul-2014
Last updated on 11-Jul-2014 at 12:10 GMT

Pfizer says 100 workers at an Irish facility will now keep their jobs due to an unpredicted increase in production volumes of off-patent drugs.

Patent expiries – most prominently the blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor – were responsible for Pfizer announcing in 2012 the loss of approximately 130 jobs at the Ringaskiddy site, as part of wider cuts across its two facilities in Cork, Ireland.

However, in a statement sent to in-Pharmatechnoogist.com, Pfizer said around 100 of the redundancies due to be made this year would no longer proceed.

“This is due to a change in manufacturing volumes and also due to significant changes in how the site operates which have delivered much greater competitiveness,” the firm said.

“A significant proportion of manufacturing in Ringaskiddy is in post-patent medicines - those that have faced patent expiration,” Pfizer continued, adding such a market is competitive and unpredictable when it comes to manufacturing volumes.

As well as Lipitor, Ringaskiddy manufactures the API for erectile dysfunction drug Viagra which lost exclusivity in a number of European markets last year. However, the plant has benefited from a recent $30m (€22m) investment in new technology to support Pfizer’s pipeline. This ‘New Product Technology Laboratory’ (NPTL) opened in May and the firm told us at the time some recently launched personalised medicines, orphan drugs and oncology medicine would be manufactures from there.

The news was welcomed by Trade Union group SIPTU, whose organiser Alan O'Leary said the reversal of the decision “is a significant vote of confidence in the workforce at Ringaskiddy” and “an example of a completely positive turnaround,” complementing the decision last year to retain production of Lipitor in Ireland despite the loss of patent.

However, Pfizer is still set on divesting a second facility in Cork, as spokesperson told us today. Little Island was put up for sale in May 2013 , and though it remains active for now, Pfizer is still seeking a buyer we were told.

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