Sanofi to shutter Plavix-producing U.K. plant

Generic competition has claimed another pharma plant. Sanofi ($SNY) plans to shutter a U.K. manufacturing facility by 2015, as demand erodes for products made there. Some 450 people work at the plant, Sky's Tyne and Wear edition reports, and after higher-ups announced the closure plans Wednesday, the stunned workers went home for the day.

Some downsizing at the Fawdon facility might have been expected: One of the drugs made there is Plavix, the blockbuster blood thinner that already competes with copycat versions in Europe, where Sanofi has full marketing rights. (In May it will face generic rivals in the U.S., where Sanofi shares revenues with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY).) The Fawdon site makes drugs primarily for distribution in the U.K. and Europe.

Sanofi's European sales for 2011 declined by 4%, partly because of competition from Plavix copies; the drug brought in 414 million euros last year, compared with 641 million in 2010. But for the moment Plavix remains one of Sanofi's best-selling drugs, so the company will have plenty of work to do to fill the gap. And one of its bottom-line strategies is the ongoing cost-cutting project that's now targeting the Fawdon site for closure.

"The proposal is being considered in the context of an adverse economic climate and the challenging pharmaceutical market in Europe," the company said in a statement, as quoted by the BBC. "The products manufactured at the Fawdon site have been adversely impacted by other factors, including generic competition, resulting in a fall in demand and production volumes."

Still, the impending shutdown "came as a shock to the staff," a union official told Sky. "We are looking to work with the company to mitigate any losses and to help the surrounding area, which is obviously going to be devastated by the loss of jobs."

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