Puerto Rico faces pharma job losses

Pfizer and Merck to close manufacturing plants in the region

Pfizer is closing one of three pharmaceutical plants in Puerto Rico, while Merck has said it will close two factories on the island.

Pfizer’s planned closure of its Barceloneta plant by 2017 could affect 500 jobs, although the company has not said how many will be lost. Some of the work carried out at the plant, which produces active ingredients and medicines, could be transferred to Pfizer’s remaining Puerto Rico plans in Vega Baja and Guayama.

Pfizer’s Vice President of Strategy and Transitioning Sites, John Kelly, said: 'Pfizer’s manufacturing network has more capacity than it needs and to remain competitive.'

The news comes as Merck said it would end active ingredient production and close its Barceloneta plant next year (2014). It will also reduce formulation operations at its Arecibo plant, closing it in 2016.

Merck will focus its Puerto Rico operations at its Las Piedras factory, which would continue to develop and launch new products. It has invested more than US$100m in Las Piedras in recent years, the firm emphasised.

Dr Cesar Simich, Vice President and Managing Director, Merck Caribbean, said the company had 'demonstrated its long-term commitment' to Puerto Rico, promising to develop Las Piedras as a 'strategic facility to develop and bring new products to market and patients worldwide'.

A report released by Puerto Rico’s Estudios Tecnicos consulting company blamed competition from lower cost countries, expiring patents and a new territory tax on foreign domiciled companies with operations in the island as reasons why its pharma sector was shrinking.

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