Feds throw lifeline to shuttered Viatris plant in West Virginia, but its fate remains uncertain

The designation could allow the government to work with Viatris or another company to continue making drugs at the Morgantown, West Virginia, factory. (jcrosemann)

Just days after Viatris shuttered manufacturing operations at a former Mylan plant that employed more than 1,400 people, the U.S. government has set the stage for a possible resurrection.

The oral solid dose plant in Morgantown, West Virginia, which had been in operation from 1965 until its closure on July 31, snagged a critical infrastructure designation from the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) told local radio station WAJR on Tuesday.

The designation could throw a lifeline to the plant and the roughly 1,431 employees who were laid off over the weekend—though whether it actually reverses the facility’s fate remains to be seen.

Fleischauer told WAJR that work is ongoing behind the scenes “to put something together” at the plant. She was the first of several public officials to write CISA asking for the designation, The Dominion Post reports.

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For its part, Viatris said in an email that “all manufacturing operations at Chestnut Ridge ceased by July 31, 2021. Post-closure activities “are proceeding as planned," the company said.

The designation could allow the government to work with Viatris or another company to continue making drugs there, according to the reports. Having a large pharma facility on reserve certainly isn’t the wildest idea given the manufacturing pressures presented by COVID-19 last year. The move isn’t without precedent, either.

Earlier this year, CISA said that a Neopharma factory in Bristol, Tennessee, would keep its critical infrastructure designation after the pandemic. That factory is the only U.S. plant equipped for the full production of penicillin, Tennessee news outlet WHJL reported in February.

Meanwhile, Fleischauer believes the government is working with a pharma company to keep the Morgantown plant afloat, WAJR said.

“There would have to be some kind of an agreement with Viatris, but I know behind the scenes there is work going on to try to put something together using that letter,” she said on the station’s Talk of the Town program.

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It may take some time before the factory’s fate is known, but Fleischauer said she was hopeful that the designation will “lead us to a way to save the plant.”

Fleischauer was one of many public officials to vouch for the Morgantown plant. House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, Representative David McKinley and Senator Joe Manchin all appealed to CISA for the critical infrastructure designation, while West Virginia governor Jim Justice sent a similar request to President Joe Biden, The Dominion Post said.

Senator Manchin also happens to be the father of Heather Bresch, the former CEO of Mylan. Mylan fused with Pfizer’s Upjohn unit in late 2020 to form the new company Viatris.

Viatris previously told Fierce Pharma that the call to close the plant "was a decision Viatris did not take lightly." The company's CEO Michael Goettler acknowledged the factory's long history in a December interview with MetroNews, stating that it "paved the way for Mylan’s early growth."