AbbVie API expansion in Ireland readies it for anticipated hep C treatment

AbbVie ($ABBV) is expecting to get its highly anticipated all-oral hepatitis C drug approved soon and has geared up its manufacturing capacity to be ready. An expansion in Ireland adds to a string of projects the drugmaker has announced as the spinoff from Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) adds to its global manufacturing network.

The drugmaker said Tuesday it has wrapped up its €85 million ($115 million) expansion at its active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) plant in Sligo, Ireland. The project, first announced in 2012, creates 175 jobs at the facility, adding to the 400 people the company employs in commercial and general operations in the country.

"This expansion builds capacity for existing products and for potential therapies in our pipeline, such as our investigational, all-oral, interferon-free regimen for the treatment of adult patients with chronic genotype 1 hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection," Azita Saleki-Gerhardt, senior VP of operations, said in a statement.

AbbVie, which gets most of its revenues from rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, went to the FDA with its applications for its hep C treatment in April and then to Europe in May. Not only has the multi-drug treatment shown promising results, but payers are hoping it might put price pressure on Sovaldi, the $84,000 hep C drug from Gilead Sciences ($GILD) that is selling so fast that it became a blockbuster in its first quarter with sales of $2.27 billion. AbbVie has other promising drugs in its pipeline and said it needs the extra capacity at the plant for those, as well as existing products.

AbbVie's current global manufacturing network includes 12 sites across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Europe but it has announced plans for more. In February, it said it would lay out $320 million to build its first facility in Asia. That plant, going up in Singapore, is being designed for both small-molecule production and biologic APIs for AbbVie's oncology and immunology pipeline. It said that project would help balance out its manufacturing map. Then in April, it announced it will partner with the Arab Company for Pharmaceutical Products (Arabio) to manufacture Humira and other drugs in Saudi Arabia.

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