Bayer to cut roughly 540 jobs in CA

Bayer HealthCare is winding down production of its blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Betaseron in Emeryville, CA, and moving it to Germany. The move will cost about 540 people their jobs beginning next year. The drug eventually will be produced under a contract with Boehringer Ingelheim, which makes the med for overseas use. All layoffs will be completed by 2013, the Contra Costa Times notes.

"We are really proud of the employees here in Emeryville and what they've done," said Catherine Anderson, a spokeswoman for Bayer HealthCare, according to the Contra Costa Times. "It has nothing to do with site performance, but rather about Bayer trying to get greater flexibility in this marketplace."

A Bayer spokesperson pointed out that the drugmaker operates another manufacturing facility in Berkeley, CA, that is undergoing a $100 million upgrade to make the company's new hemophilia therapy, a local station reported. Employees at the Emeryville facility will have the opportunity to apply for jobs at the Berkeley plant.

Bayer leased the Emeryville facility from Novartis back in 2007. Novartis will regain control of the facility, but has yet to announce what it will do with it, the San Francisco Business Times notes.

John McCamant, editor of the Medical Technology Stockletter in Berkeley, said he's not surprised by the move, as it is all about efficiency. "We see moves like this all the time as companies try to stay competitive," he added.

The multiple sclerosis market has been a steady source of news as of late as competition ratchets up. Novartis' new Gilenya pill is "doing very well" in the U.S., with more than 10,000 patients using the treatment. Indeed, experts expect Gilenya's potential rivals--Biogen Idec's Avonex, Betaseron, Teva Phamaceutical Industries' Copaxone and Merck KGaA's Rebif--to take a hit.

- get more from the Contra Costa Times
- check out the story from the San Francisco Business Times
- see more from KGO

ALSO:  Bayer Healthcare has been singled out for "particular censure" by the PMCPA, the body which regulates the ABPI Code of Practice. Multiple breaches of the code arose from Bayer's "misleading" advertisement for its oral contraceptive Yasmin that suggested the drug could be used to treat a variety of other symptoms. Story

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