The decision to shutter the Avlon plant, near Bristol, was originally taken in 2008 but this week the company told our sister publication in-Pharmatechnologist.com the site would close its doors by early 2017.
While around 250 AstraZeneca employees will be affected, there will be opportunities for contract manufacturing organisations (CMO) to supply AstraZeneca with the ingredients for blockbuster cardiovascular drug Crestor (rosuvastatin) and schizophrenia drug Seroquel (Quetiapine) produced at the site.
“The majority of API manufacturing undertaken at Avlon will be outsourced once the site closes,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson told Outsourcing-Pharma.com. “However, we will maintain some API manufacturing capability at our site in Södertälje in Sweden.”
There are already a number of generic versions of Seroquel on the market, and while 2013 sales of cholesterol-lowerer Crestor stood at $5.6bn (€4.3bn), the patent has recently expired in Canada and it will lose exclusivity in the US in 2016.
“The decision [to shutter the Avlon site] is part of a broader strategy review looking across our global operations, but it’s true to say that the impending expiration of the Crestor patent was one factor.”
The patent cliff has meant a number of Big Pharma firms have been left with over-capacity and have had to reassess their manufacturing networks. While plants have been shuttered and sold off, there is still the need for companies to be supplied with ingredients, albeit in smaller quantities.
Pfizer, for example, put a facility in Cork, Ireland, up for sale last year due to the continuing decline of sales of its off-patent blockbuster statin drug Lipitor, several years after it sold a second manufacturing site in Cork to Hovione, which continued to supply the firm with Lipitor API.
Merck & Co. has also sold off a number of its API plants to CMOs and forged supply contracts with the purchasers. A site in Philadelphia was sold in 2008 to PRWT Services, while last year the Aspen Group bought plants in Iowa and the Netherlands off the Pharma Giant while securing ten-year supply contracts.