Earlier this year MSD (known as Merck & Co in North America) announced it was to shutter an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) facility in Rathdrum, County Wicklow with 280 jobs set to go. Last week, the firm said a second Irish manufacturing plant in Swords, County Dublin, would cease operating by 2017 and 570 jobs would be affected.
Speaking with in-Pharmatechnologist.com, MSD spokesperson Ciara O’Rourke said the closure of both of these plants “is purely due to the network capacity and an ongoing review of all [MSD’s] manufacturing globally since the merger with Schering-Plough” in 2009.
The site manufactures formulated products in the areas women’s health, anesthesia and psychiatry, and according to the firm operations will be transferred to MSD sites in Belgium, the Netherlands and the US, as well as to third-parties.
This is not a pull-out from Ireland, O’Rourke continued, arguing that it is a continuation of MSD’s strategy that has seen the number of facilities reduced from 95 to around 68, since the acquisition in 2009.
Recently the firm has announced it was shuttering plants in Puerto Rico, the US and France, and last month spokesperson Kyra Lindemann told this publication the company was looking to exit an additional ten sites in the future, pushing its network down to a total of 58.
MSD remains committed to Ireland, O’Rourke said, with three other Irish sites in its network:
The Cork site is a biotechnology facility, working on MSD’s oncology pipeline drug MK-3475, the Carlow site is a new sterile facility and vaccine facility, also intended to support MK-3475 and the Ballydine site - originally used to produce APIs - manufactures clinical amounts for MSD’s new pipeline.
With the Swords closure, Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA) said the pharmaceutical sector remains a significant employer in Ireland and was hopeful it would find a buyer.
In a statement supplied to in-Pharmatechnologist.com, the IDA said: “Ireland’s pharma portfolio is undergoing a graduated transition from small molecule capacity, to biologics and large molecule,” with a number or major players involved in both.
We put this to O’Rourke who said MSD still has a large number of small molecule drugs on the market and will continue to need to manufacture these, but “Ireland’s success in the future would be from higher end technology.”
However, she reiterated the closures of Swords and Rathdrum were not related to any move towards biomanufacturing.
“MSD and the Irish Government has always had a positive relationship,” she said, adding the firm had benefitted from a number of incentives including a stable corporate tax rate, a low R&D tax and grants towards innovation and uptraining, which aided in particular the new Ballydine facility.