GSK moves forward with new plant in Scotland for Ventolin API

GSK is moving forward with a new API plant at its site in Montrose, Scotland.

GlaxoSmithKline is moving forward with a new plant in Scotland to expand API production for its COPD drug Ventolin, which has been one of the bright spots in its respiratory business.

The U.K.-based company has informed local authorities it wants to build a £110 million ($137 million), four-story facility at its site in Scotland for the production of salbutamol, the API in Ventolin, a treatment for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the Courier reports. No new jobs are tied to the project, but it will help secure current positions at the facility.

A GSK spokesperson confirmed the Montrose project is part of a a  £275 million expansion at three plants in the U.K. that the company announced in July. GSK said at the time that in addition to the Montrose investment, it would lay out £92 million at Barnard Castle in Durham County in the U.K. to build an aseptic sterile manufacturing plant for biologics and £74 million at the Ware site for expansion of production of inhalers for its Ellipta respiratory drug.

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A lot has happened since then. In September, the company announced that Emma Walmsley, who headed GSK’s consumer health business, would take over as CEO when Andrew Witty steps down March 28. Witty in the last few years has doubled down on low-margin businesses like vaccines, while avoiding some new areas subject to pricing pressure and repeatedly forecast the return of its respiratory business.

While its top-selling respiratory drug Advair turned in fading sales in 2016, even ahead of  generic competition, that was offset by GSK’s other respiratory meds. Among those was Ventolin, which had a 23% jump in sales last year to about $527 million, as a competitor struggled with supplies of a competing COPD drug.

Witty has overseen steady investments in its U.K. production after helping convince the government to enact a 2013 corporate tax cut for new innovation developed in the country. Last year GSK opened an $80.5 million (£56 million), 4,500-square-meter plant in Ware, U.K. that nearly doubles production of its Ellipta inhalers to 37 million a year. That project added 150 jobs. 

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