Novartis idles plant, throwing off OTC drug supplies

Early in December, Novartis ($NVS) made headlines with a warning letter citing three Sandoz manufacturing plants. Just two weeks later, the company suspended production at a different plant that turns out over-the-counter drugs and veterinary remedies. Apart from a letter to customers, the company didn't mention the move, even though it's expected to disrupt supplies of some popular consumer meds.

Executives said the temporary shutdown would "expedite maintenance and improvements" at the Lincoln, Nebraska, facility, a local paper reported. No workers will be laid off because of the production kink, the company told the Lincoln Journal Star. "The decision to temporarily suspend production is driven by our continuous commitment to the highest standards that meet the expectations of our consumers and customers as well as health authorities around the world," wrote Novartis' OTC Americas President Brian McNamara and VP of sales Roger Gravitte.

As Pharmalot reports, the manufacturing kink will throw off shipments of Excedrin, Theraflu, Triaminic, Maalox, Lamisil and Benefiber. A veterinary news service said production of the animal-health products Interceptor, a heartworm preventive, and the flea fighter Sentinel were also affected.

Officials from the consumer-health side told Pharmalot that Novartis is working closely with the FDA and has kept the agency apprised of the work at the plant. Mickey McDermott, who heads up communications for Novartis Animal Health in North America, told the VIN News Service that the company hopes to be back up and running with its regular production schedule sometime this month. The work under way at the facility is "voluntary," McDermott said. "We're hoping this will be very temporary," he said.

- read the VIN News Service story
- get more from Pharmalot
- see the Journal Star piece