Pfizer trying to sell Pakistan plant

Pfizer is negotiating the sale of manufacturing plant in Karachi to Pakistan drugmaker ICI Pakistan.

Pakistan can be a tough country for drugmakers to do business in, with drug pricing issues and raw ingredient concerns, even for the world’s largest drugmaker. Pfizer is about to reduce those worries with the sale of a manufacturing facility there.

Pakistani drug and chemical maker ICI Pakistan on Friday reported to the Pakistan Stock Exchange that it was in negotiations with Wyeth Pakistan, a unit of Pfizer, to buy a drug plant in Karachi, the International News reported. Pfizer has two manufacturing plants in Karachi, the one operated by Wyeth Pakistan and one by Pfizer Pakistan.

A Pfizer spokesperson Monday confirmed the negotiations. In a statement, the company said that the board of Wyeth Pakistan, which Pfizer acquired in 2009, had agreed to negotiate the sale of “certain product assets and the Hawkes Bay manufacturing plant of Wyeth Pakistan” with ICI Pakistan.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the company said that the decision was made after a review of the company’s capacity and supply needs in the country. It said the Hawkes Bay plant currently manufactures a number of everyday, essential health products including anti-fungal, cold and flu medicines and Myrin, a tuberculosis drug which ICI Pakistan is likely to continue to manufacture. 

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. However, Pfizer said that ICI has committed to keeping the entire workforce of the facility, “honoring the current union contract and continuing operations at the site, thereby ensuring continued supply of medicines to patients in Pakistan.”

Pfizer said in its statement that it remains committed to the market and will continue to market products like its Prevnar 13 vaccine, anxiety drug Effexor and other drugs, including a range of anti-TB products.

In the summer, Reuters reported that drugmakers, including Pfizer and Novartis, were dealing with pricing issues for tuberculosis drugs in Pakistan, leading to shortages, as many drugmakers left the market. It said Novartis had stopped making TB drugs in the country altogether, while Pfizer reported production disruptions in recent months. Both Novartis and Pfizer each control about 30% of Pakistan’s TB market.

Pfizer’s Pakistan unit reported a net profit of Rs139.7 million ($1.3 million), according to Reuters, in the quarter ended Aug. 31, compared to Rs22.9 ($260,000) in the same quarter a year ago.

Editor's Note: The story was updated to reflect that Wyeth Pakistan is a separate legal entity from Pfizer Pakistan, although the company owns both.