Lonza keeps Chinese plants on 'holiday' as coronavirus builds momentum

Screens warning about a new coronavirus are seen in a subway train in Seoul, South Korea
The coronavirus outbreak in China has led CDMO Lonza to halt production at plants in the country. (Photo by AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon via Newscred)

Swiss CDMO Lonza is extending the Chinese New Year break at its four plants in China, but not to celebrate. The unplanned extension is a precaution as coronavirus continues to spread rapidly through the country. 

The company is also imposing restrictions on travel to, from and within the country and requiring a two-week in-home quarantine on employees traveling from China to make sure there is no spread of the virus.

“As a responsible employer, we have taken measures to protect our employees and any third parties visiting our sites in China,” Lonza said.

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Lonza said today it has halted operations at a plant in Nansha, Guangdong that makes small molecule APIs and niacin; a plant in Suzhou, Jiangsu that makes drug capsules and microbial control solutions; and its biologics plant Guangzhou, Guangdong that is under construction so not operational.  

It has no production facilities in the Hubei Province where the outbreak was first discovered, it said but is taking the steps as a precaution. It said most of the plants have decided to extend the holiday into this week as authorities monitor the outbreak. 

The extended closure so far has resulted in only limited disruption of supplies, the CDMO said, but it is “assessing the impact” of potential delays to raw materials and finished products as the outbreak's effects continue.  

RELATED: WuXi Biologics says coronavirus will not halt flow of critical drugs

Lonza's announcement follows that of Chinese CDMO WuXi Biologics which last week assured clients and the public that the spread of the virus would not affect its drug production schedule. As of a week ago, it said it is “working vigilantly to execute our Business Continuity Plan to mitigate any potential risk” and to ensure its products are unaffected by the outbreak. 

Big Pharma players like Pfizer and Roche say they are not exclusively dependent on any supplies from China but there are some areas of concern for U.S. patients. China manufactures an estimated 97% of the country’s antibiotics and many of the APIs used by drugmakers. While no serious supply issues have surfaced, the virus continues to spread and seems to be picking up momentum according to Chinese statistics.

The China National Health Commission reported that through yesterday, confirmed cases have grown more than 3,000 to 20,438 and that there were another 64 deaths, bringing the fatality number to 425. 

The infections also are growing globally as countries take measures to try to shield themselves. The U.S., Australia, Singapore, New Zealand and Vietnam are not allowing non-residents who have been to China recently to enter their countries. The U.S. has seen nearly a dozen confirmed cases and reported its first person-to-person transmission inside the country.

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