Injection point: BD, Teva, Hikma target sterile injectables

New manufacturing capacity has come online, and more is in the pipeline, as drugmakers see opportunity to fill vials with injectable drugs and shortages with higher-priced products. 

Medical supply company Becton Dickinson ($BDX) has opened a 115,000-square-foot plant in Wilson, NC, that will manufacture the injectable antihistamine drug diphenhydramine hydrochloride, USP. The company announced Thursday that the FDA approved the drug.

"We have made a significant investment in R&D and manufacturing capabilities to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that combines drug formulation with our manufacturing expertise," said BD COO William A. Kozy. 

The company invested about $100 million in the LEED-certified facility, which opened in 2010, according to Colleen White, BD's communications director. The plant currently employs more than 115 people and is expected to grow to about 140 by the end of 2013, she said. The company plans to roll out 20 to 30 more injectable drugs in the next few years.

The sterile injectables market is growing worldwide, even as some of the established players like Hospira ($HSP) and Boehringer Ingelheim's Ben Venue Laboratories are struggling with manufacturing issues and FDA approvals in the U.S. That has opened up lucrative opportunities for players like Hikma, the Jordan-based company, and Germany's Fresenius Kabi, which have both been cleaning up. Hikma plans to add another line to its New Jersey plant after having bumped up capacity 20% there already. 

Bigger players also are waking up to the potential. Teva Pharmaceutical Laboratories ($TEVA) in October opened a $110 million, 15,000-square-meter facility plant in Gödöllő, Hungary. The facility has 6 production lines and the capacity to churn out 160 million to 200 million units of injectable meds annually. Generic drugmaker Mylan ($MYL) was so taken with the upside of injectables that it recently agreed to pay $1.6 billion for India's Agila Specialties, which has modern and extensive injectables manufacturing. Hospira last year bought a modern API plant in India to feed its operations.

- here's the Becton Dickinson release