Merck plans cutbacks at Pennsylvania plant

Last year, Merck bought back a Pennsylvania plant it had sold off to contract manufacturer PRWT in 2008. PRWT was struggling, and Merck needed to safeguard its supply of active ingredients and other products still made at the plant. Now, Merck is cutting production and staff there, as it outsources some of the work and sells off the plant's fermentation operations.

It's a testament to the difficulties companies are facing these days--in pharma and elsewhere--that local officials saw the news as a plus, because Merck isn't shutting down the facility altogether. Instead, the company will focus its operations there on two antibiotics, Invanz and Primaxin, while bringing in a buyer to operate the fermentation line and farming out production of APIs for a cholesterol drug and an AIDS treatment. Local chamber of commerce chief Charlie Ross told The Daily Item that "[a]nything other than a wholesale closure," is positive news.

Some jobs will have to go, but Merck officials say they don't know how many. They also don't know when, spokeswoman Betse Humphrey said, because it will take time to outsource some of the production and to sell the fermentation operations. "The important thing is we are focusing on our antibiotic franchise," Humphrey said. "It's good news. We're looking at this as a way to remain in the community."

- read the Daily Item story