AbbVie bucks Puerto Rico departure trend with $30m expansion

By Fiona BARRY

- Last updated on GMT

AbbVie is expanding its facilities in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.
AbbVie is expanding its facilities in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.

Related tags Puerto rico

AbbVie is investing $30m (€27m) in contract manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico and plans to create 100 jobs over the next two years.

The pharma giant will expand its two existing sites in Barceloneta, on the northern coast of the island.

A spokeswoman told us the funding will mostly be spent on processing capabilities for immunology products.

One of AbbVie’s Barceloneta sites produces small molecule therapies, while the other makes biologics and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), as well as large-scale drug services like tablet coating, granulation, hot melt extrusion, and prefilled syringes.

The government-owned Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) supported this latest expansion and has offered AbbVie incentives for building infrastructure and jobs.

The Executive Director of PRIDCO said Puerto Rico plans to encourage other investments in manufacturing and industrial development.

AbbVie’s expansion reaffirms Puerto Rico as a global manufacturing powerhouse where talented people combine with pioneer technologies to create biopharmaceutical products that have a significant role in the lives of many people worldwide,​” added Antonio Medina Comas.

Puerto Rico’s governor Alejandro García Padilla said AbbVie’s presence and expansion showed the company’s confidence in the area.

AbbVie has a third Puerto Rican facility in Jayuya in the central highlands. The site manufacturers potent oral dose durgs, and performs mixing, compressing and packaging. The company employs approximately 1,000 people on the island.

Biohub – but for how long?

Puerto Rico has a reputation as a biotech hub, partly driven by tax credits which historically have exempted manufacturing on the island from US taxes. AbbVie has been present in the territory since 1969.

But following a change in US law in 2010 which taxed offshore big earners, companies have started to pull out of the region. Novartis has announced it will close its Puerto Rican activity​ and outsource manufacturing and packaging to Eli Lilly by 2019.

Pfizer and Merck​ also plan to phase out many of their operations in Barceloneta by 2017.

Actavis bucked the trend last June with a $48m investment​ in solid dose and hormone manufacturing.

Puerto Rico’s utility costs and taxes must be controlled if the region is to retain pharma investment, a regulatory expert told in 2013. Read our interview here.

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