New plant to make Merck KGaA drugs opens in Iran

Iran is one of those tricky markets, even for European companies, as the U.S. steps up pressure on the country to change its nuclear efforts. Merck KGaA will be able to expand in the country, however, with the completion by a contractor of a facility dedicated to making its meds.

Merck KGaA spokesman Gangolf Schrimpf this week confirmed that a contractor has expanded capacity for making Merck drugs for the Iran market with the opening of a new facility. Merck was careful to point out that the facility was built without any investment from the German drugmaker and in “compliance with applicable local and international law and regulations.”

“Merck does not have a legal presence, nor does Merck own any assets or facilities in Iran,” Schrimpf said in an email.

The new manufacturing facility in Tehran is one of the most “advanced” in the country, according to a report in the Iran Times, citing the Iranian Students News Agency. It includes 4,200 square meters of clean room and has three granulation lines, six lines for producing pills and tablets and five packaging lines,

RELATED: Novo to build $78M plant in Iran

The so-called Actover 2 facility is producing more than 190 Merck products covering 14 different treatment areas including cardiovascular, cancers and multiple sclerosis, according to the report. Trial production, which began last year, was completed at the end of March. The facility is designed to produce more than 7 billion tablets and pills as well as 100 million syringes and needles, pre-filled syringes, injection vials and lyophilizer, the newspaper reports.

The pace of investment in Iran picked up during the previous administration, which had hammered out a nuclear deal that eased sanctions in exchange for verifiable steps by Iran to dismantle any nuclear weapons capabilities. During that thaw in relations, diabetes and insulin specialist Novo Nordisk in 2015 struck a deal to build a €70 million ($78.1 million) facility in Iran to produce its FlexPen prefilled devices.

The situation is much different today. The Trump administration last year canceled U.S. involvement in the Iran nuclear agreement and has reinstated strict sanctions on the country, making investment there more tenuous.