Merck New Jersey plant to close in October

More than 110 workers at a New Jersey plant that Merck ($MRK) put on its hit list a couple of years ago have gotten their walking papers. The plant will finally close in October as the company continues to weed out facilities from the extended manufacturing network it picked up in the $41 billion buyout two years ago of Schering-Plough.

The company has sent notices to 113 employees at the Kenilworth, NJ, plant, according to It will move what manufacturing remains to a plant in Cleveland, TN, spokeswoman Lainie Keller told the publication.

"Since we merged with Schering-Plough, this has been part of our operations to consolidate manufacturing around the world," Keller said. In February, Merck said it would close a plant in Ireland and lay off 280 workers there.

Keller told that Merck plans to beef up R&D at the 100-acre campus to focus on biologics. Merck has had to rethink some of its strategies around biologics and biosimilars. Last year it said it was dropping its biosimilar development program for Enbrel after Amgen ($AMGN) managed to secure a longer patent for the drug. In February, Merck said it would partner with a new venture formed by the South Korean conglomerate Samsung and Biogen Idec ($BIIB) for work on biosimilars. Still, biologics are becoming more important to drugmakers, and many are beefing up their focus on them.

The notices went out the same week that Merck reported its earnings were off 50% in the quarter, as its allergy drug Singulair saw sales drop 80% compared with the same quarter a year ago following its patent expiration. Merck also dampened expectations for 2013 earnings. It now forecasts earnings to be off 5% to 6% for the year. Earlier, Merck said they would be flat, then revised that to down 3% to 4%.

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