Baxter International will be investing $35m (€27m) into its Aibonito, Puerto Rico facility in order to build a new full-scale line for solutions manufacturing and filling yet despite this second investment – Baxter invested $2.5m last year in a small-scale production line – the company will be laying off 400 of the 900 workers.
Jill Carey-Hargrave, Global Corporates Communication at Baxter, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com the reduction in workforce is a result of “new solutions manufacturing operations” which “require higher levels of technology and automation than existing work performed at the facility.”
She continued, adding: “the company will be transforming the facility from its current focus – production of sets and components used to administer intravenous solutions and medications – to more advanced manufacturing of intravenous solutions and medications.”
Over the next few years, current manufacturing at Aibonito will be transferred to a facility in the Dominican Republic and headcount will also be reduced, though Baxter say it will attempt to “offset impact” by managing staff “through attritions/retirements and the use of temporary labour.”
Recent years have seen a string of quality failures in manufacturing plants on the island, regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a number of large pharma manufacturers receiving FDA warning letters.
Research in 2011 discovered that difficulties in transferring knowledge between US Pharmas and their facilities on the island may have been responsible for the quality issues on Puerto Rico.
Baxter itself received a letter about its Jayuya plant, and Mylan and Warner Chilcott have both been recipients. Furthermore, CMO Patheon shut down its Caguas plant on the island after years of underperformance.
When Outsourcing-Pharma.com asked Carey-Hargrave about the endemic QA/QC problems on the island, she remained confident in Baxter who has had a manufacturing presence in Puerto Rico since 1958.
“Our confidence in the technical abilities of the Aibonito employees and high regard for the long-term value of the facility,” she said, “are reflected in the continued investment we are making to expand into solutions manufacturing.”