Ben Venue puts troubled plant on idle amid shortages

Boosting supply of its Doxil cancer drug isn't getting any easier for Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ). The contract drugmaker producing the scarce treatment has now suspended manufacturing at its Ohio plant to wrap up some maintenance work that's overdue, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"We are not currently manufacturing at our site," Ben Venue spokesman Jason Kurtz told the WSJ. "We are working to complete the current investigation ... and hope to restore manufacturing and distribution as quickly as possible."

It's just the latest setback for Ben Venue Laboratories, a division of Boehringer Ingelheim, which turns out a bunch of other drugs in addition to Doxil. The FDA has flagged a series of significant issues at the plant--including bacterial contamination--and the company had to recall some batches because of quality-control problems. So, officials there were already scrambling on those fixes. And as the WSJ notes, equipment failures earlier this year put a crimp in production, which in turn caused the Doxil shortage.

J&J had been working with Ben Venue to ramp up Doxil production as it hunted for a new contract manufacturer for the drug and transitioned production to that supplier. Now, with 2,700 people on a waiting list for the cancer drug, J&J doesn't know when Ben Venue will be able to ship any products. Ben Venue, meanwhile, still plans to transition out of the contract manufacturing business altogether.

- get the WSJ piece