The board of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has, reluctantly, agreed to close Moorfields Pharmaceuticals' central London production facility.
Production at the unit, which previously manufactured a comprehensive range of 'specials' (niche, unlicensed ophthalmic medicines), has been suspended for more than a year following an MHRA inspection which identified concerns with some of the facility's practices and processes, although there was never any evidence of any potential harm to patients. In the interim, staff at Moorfields Pharmaceuticals have worked hard to identify alternative products to ensure the continued supply of vital drugs to patients.
Given the length of the suspension, the board has concluded that re-instating manufacturing after such a lengthy pause would be costly and complex and that, as an NHS manufacturing unit, Moorfields Pharmaceuticals does not have the level of investment and infrastructure to compete in such a challenging and commercial environment without making unrealistic demands on the wider trust.
At the same time, the market for specials is in decline – the value of specials has reduced by 28.6% since 2011 – and the regulatory standards to which manufacturers need to adhere are becoming increasingly rigorous.
"I appreciate that this will be devastating news for the employees of the manufacturing unit, many of whom have been with us for many years," says Alan Krol, the managing director of Moorfields Pharmaceuticals. "We will be giving them all the support we can in these difficult circumstances, including trying to identify redeployment opportunities within the trust or elsewhere.
"I would also like to acknowledge our employees' vital contributions to our business over the past 10 years, as well as their support and dedication to us, especially during the last very difficult 12 months."
Moorfields Pharmaceuticals will continue with its range of licensed medicines as well as the smaller range of outsourced ophthalmic specials, which are not available from other suppliers.
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