Sanofi plant adds 40 to produce SkyePharma product

For a company that is cutting jobs by the thousands, adding 40 new positions at a manufacturing plant in England might seem like small potatoes, but not so to the management at Sanofi's ($SNY) Holmes Chapel operation.

As part of its licensing arrangement with SkyePharma, the plant in September will begin manufacturing the inhalation drugmaker's asthma treatment Flutiform, reports the Manchester Evening News. Sanofi has marketing rights to the drug in Mexico, Central and South America. SkyePharma invested £5 million ($7.8 million) for the production infrastructure for the drug at the plant.

"We are proud to be the only global manufacturing site for Flutiform and feel that it will contribute towards our vision of Holmes Chapel as a center of excellence for the manufacture of inhalation products with a future we all want to be part of," Jean Stephenson, the Holmes Chapel site director, tells the newspaper. 

There will be a dedicated workforce of about 40 working on the production, testing and supply of Flutiform but that number is projected to double in a few years, Stephenson says.

Flutiform is a metered-dose inhaler that combines a fixed dose of two drugs--the "fast-onset, long-acting" beta-agonist formoterol fumarate and the corticosteroid fluticasone propionate. The treatment, which uses a built-in counter to track remaining doses, is meant to help improve treatment outcomes by boosting compliance through combining drugs typically in separate inhalers, SkyePharma claims. The FDA rejected its application for approval in the U.S. in 2010. The same year, the company filed a European marketing approval application but ran into delays. In January this year, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it would use an arbitration process because members states couldn't all agree on approval. In April, the EMA gave the drug its blessing.

The news comes even as Sanofi prepares to whack about 2,500 jobs in France, mostly in R&D and administration. It has been cutting thousands more globally as it loses patent protection, and therefore blockbuster sales, tied to drugs like its blood thinner Plavix. It has announced that by 2015 it will close a manufacturing plant in Fawdon, England, where Plavix is manufactured, ending about 450 jobs there.

- read the Manchester Evening News story
- here's the EMA's announcement