GlaxoSmithKline to close Memphis consumer health plant, putting 150 jobs on the chopping block

GlaxoSmithKline GSK House in Brentford, UK
GlaxoSmithKline informed workers that it would phase out operations at its Memphis, Tennessee, plant by mid-2021, a company spokesperson said. (GlaxoSmithKline)

First poised for sale, then expanded—and then hit with layoffs after that, a GlaxoSmithKline consumer health plant with a history of ups and downs has closed for good.

GSK has shuttered its manufacturing facility in Memphis, Tennessee, where 156 employees will lose their jobs, a WARN notice sent to the state's Department of Labor and Workforce Development says. The plan had been in the cards for some time, GSK pointed out.

"In 2018, GSK made the difficult decision to cease operations at our site in Memphis, Tennessee," a spokesperson said over email. "At the time of the announcement, we advised employees that operations would be phased out of Memphis by mid-2021," she added.

The plant, which made Polident denture cleaning products and other oral brands, opened in 1964, a GSK spokesperson told Fierce Pharma several years back. Over the past 10 years, however, the facility's fate had been in flux.

Amid a consumer health slim-down in 2011, GlaxoSmithKline reportedly planned to put its Memphis plant and another facility in Aiken, South Carolina, up for sale. GSK ultimately sold 17 North American consumer drugs to Prestige Brands for $660 million. Both the Memphis and Aiken plants made products covered in the deal, but, in the end, GSK only sold the Aiken site.

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Spared from sale, the Memphis plant received a $2 million investment for infrastructure upgrades in 2015—but by 2018, the drugmaker was looking to slim down. In October 2018, GSK said it would start phased layoffs of 99 employees there, which GSK blamed on a lost contract manufacturing agreement.

This time around, GSK didn't offer a reason for the Memphis plant's closure, though the company is currently in the midst of a consumer health spinoff that will see the company emerge with a leaner focus on vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

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The Greater Memphis Local Workforce Development Area rapid response team has been put on the case to coordinate services between GSK and its employees, the company said in the closure alert.

"Whenever we identify the need for changes that impact the future of any of our sites and employees, we take great care to communicate these changes thoughtfully and provide support to employees," GSK's spokesperson said.