Hospira unveils new quality lab at troubled plant

Hospira ($HSP) has been investing heavily in its massive Rocky Mount, NC, plant in an effort to get its product quality up to FDA expectations. Part of the $200 million being spent went into a quality and analytical testing laboratory where 200 people will work. The injectable drug specialist unveiled the lab Wednesday, and the state's governor, Pat McCrory, and other state and local officials were on hand to see what they helped pay for.

"Rocky Mount's new laboratory, coupled with our investments throughout the plant, will help ensure that we continue to supply high-quality, more affordable medicines to customers and patients who need them," said Marty Nealey, vice president of Hospira's Rocky Mount operations.

Quality has been a bit elusive at Rocky Mount and two other facilities where Hospira has been making upgrades to address issues raised by an FDA inspection team. The company has had to recall a whole range of products in the last couple of years for everything from overfilled cartridges of pain drugs to vials containing glass particulate and steel and hair discovered in solutions.

But CEO F. Michael Ball has pledged to raise the quality standards, and the company has been injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into revamping the plants and their management as well as for expert advice. Some of that money, a pledged $13 million, is coming from state and local grants and tax breaks. Various government entities ponied up the dollars in exchange for Hospira's promise of 200 more jobs at a plant that already employs 2,600 workers.

Those 200 will work in the lab, inspecting, evaluating and testing samples of the 450 products manufactured in the 1.4-million-square-foot facility, a size that places it among the world's largest generic injectable manufacturing facilities. The products manufactured there include intravenous solutions, renal and cardiovascular drugs, anesthetics, analgesics and anti-infectives, in a variety of doses. Some of those drugs have landed on the FDA's shortage list as lines closed for remediation, but Hospira has made progress getting those back to the market.

"Through advanced technology and additional space, we've been able to gradually increase our production levels and ensure more consistent release of products, ultimately supporting our ability to provide a more sustainable supply of many life-impacting drugs," Nealey said of the efforts.

- here's the announcement