Pfizer says investments in Ireland position plants for growth

Yes, Pfizer ($PFE) has closed up some plants in Ireland. Yes, the $130 million it will plow into two plants there will come without producing any new jobs. But a top exec for the company says Ireland is still important to Pfizer's manufacturing plans, and he envisions growth there over time.

"The amount of money that is being put into research is an indication that productivity is going to return and once that returns you get new products. And Ireland is well positioned to be able to manufacture those products," Paul Duffy, vice president of manufacturing, told the Evening Echo.

Pfizer earlier this month said it would invest $130 million in two plants in Ireland. It will make $100 million in upgrades at its biologics operation in Grange Castle, Dublin, and invest another $30 million at its plant in Ringaskiddy, Cork. The company said there would be no new jobs associated with the plant improvements, but Duffy said at the time that it would help secure their future, enabling them to be involved in earlier development of newer drugs.  

"In the past it tended to be a bigger-volume product with tons of materials to meet millions of patients' needs," Duffy said. "When you produce cancer drugs that are a lot more targeted to smaller population pools, then you need a lot less material and a smaller plant to manufacture the smaller quantities," he said.

In recent years, Pfizer has whacked about 1,000 jobs in the country in the face of patent losses for drugs likes Lipitor and Viagra. It currently has about 3,000 workers at 6 plants there. The Ringaskiddy plant actually is slated to get more production as the result of Pfizer's decision to close a plant in Little Island, Cork, where it is cutting more than 135 jobs.

Duffy said he thinks Pfizer is working through the tough times and that his side of the house will be called on to do more before long: "We would be optimistic that the research productivity is getting better and we are just going through one of those lull periods and we are trying to prepare ourselves for when things turn around."

- read the Evening Echo story

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