Abbott is closing a plant in Puerto Rico as Mexico's Neolpharma expands

Puerto Rico built up its pharma manufacturing hub around tax breaks for the industry. But its plants have become more vulnerable to cuts since those tax breaks were phased out, and the island has taken some tough hits in the last year. Now Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) will add to the drain, saying it will close a plant there.

Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel confirmed to the Associated Press last week that the company plans to close a manufacturing plant in Barceloneta in mid-2015. He declined to say how many workers would be let go, only that Abbott has about 1,500 employees across the island. The AP said the plant slated to be shuttered is the smallest of three Abbott has.

Last fall Merck ($MRK) said it would cease production at an active pharmaceutical ingredient plant in Barceloneta late in 2014 and move the formulation and packaging done at the facility to a contractor. It also intends to move formulation operations at its plant in Arecibo to its Las Piedras facility, and all of that work will go to a contractor by the end of 2016, it said. A couple of weeks later Pfizer ($PFE) said it would shutter a plant in Barceloneta by 2017 but couldn't say how many employees will lose jobs as a result. It has three plants and about 2,700 employees on the island.

Not all of the news from Puerto Rico's pharma sector has been dire. On Friday, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) dedicated a new Development and Innovation Center put in by Mexico-based Neolpharma. In 2012, the company bought another Puerto Rico plant Pfizer was unloading and has spent about $12 million on upgrades.

- read the Associated Press story
- here's the PRIDCO release