UPDATE

Over-capacity and patent loss sees Pfizer & Merck shutter Puerto Rico plants

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Puerto rico, Pfizer

Pfizer and Merck reducing Puerto Rico manufacturing
Pfizer and Merck reducing Puerto Rico manufacturing
Pfizer says it intends to shutter a manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico just days after Merck & Co. announced it was reducing its footprint on the island.

The Pharma Giant has three Puerto Rican manufacturing plants but late last week Pfizer announced operations at its active product ingredients (APIs) and solid dosage products in Barceloneta are to be phased out by the end of 2017.

Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo telling in-Pharmatechnologist.com: “We routinely review the capacity and capability of our global manufacturing network to ensure we are well aligned with our markets.”

In 2010, the company announced a major restructuring programme​ to cut manufacturing down from the 78 sites it had as a result of the acquisition of Wyeth, which had led to over-capacity across the network. Furthermore, loss of patent exclusivity on a number of top-selling products has seen further reductions recently with facility planned to shutter in Australia​ and Ireland​.

The Barceloneta facility manufactures 13 APIs - Amlodipine, Azithromycin, Celecoxib, Doxazosin, Exemestane, Fluconazole, Linezolid, Nifedipine, Parecoxib, Sertraline, Tolterodine, Varenicline, Latanoprost - as well as several branded drugs, including Cardura, Diflucan, Glucotrol, Minipress, Norvasc, Procardia, Tikosyn, Xanax/Halcion, Zithromax and Zoloft.

Castillo said manufacturing will be transferred to several of Pfizer’s other sites, including another Puerto Rico site in Vega Baja, Ringaskiddy and Newbridge in Ireland, and Tuas in Singapore.

Barceloneta currently employs around 700 people, 500 of which are Pfizer employees. However, Castillo said: “Due to the complexity of this transition, we do not expect to see any significant impact on headcount before late 2014.”

Merck & Co.

The news comes just days after fellow Big Pharma firm Merck & Co. (known as MSD outside North America) announced its plan to redesign its Puerto Rico sites, with its API manufacturing at a site also in Barceloneta coming to an end in the next twelve months (though the firm says formulation and packaging operations under third party contract will continue). Furthermore, a second facility in Arecibo will be shuttered by the end of 2016.

According to Merck spokesperson Lainie Keller, "the Barceloneta site produces sitagliptin API for the diabetes treatments Januvia and Janumet, marketed in all global markets."​ She told us "manufacturing will be consolidated into existing operations at other Merck sites and also to third-party contract manufacturers."

Puerto Rico Pull-Out?

Merck said though two facilities were being reduced, it remained committed to Puerto Rico, having invested over $100m in its Las Piedras site - one of only two sites in its network dedicated to the development and launch of new products - in the last few years, with some operations from the other plants set to be transferred there.

We asked Castillo if this latest news meant Pfizer was looking to exit the island. “Pfizer will continue to be a part of Puerto Rico’s business community with major manufacturing facilities at Vega Baja and Guayama,” ​she said, adding both will remain important sites globally.

Furthermore, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) remained upbeat to the future of pharma manufacturing on the island, despite these two announced exits.

In a statement, Executive Director Antonio L. Medina Comas said he was “conscious of the contraction in this segment” ​and “PRIDCO is moving from concentration to diversification of industries, positioning Puerto Rico as a major player not only in activities related to traditional manufacturing, but also in other emerging segments.”

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