More Novartis jobs cut in New York as plant suffers drawn-out drawdown

Novartis ($NVS) continues the protracted drawdown at its Diovan plant in New York, telling the state nearly two dozen more jobs will be whacked starting at the end of March. It will be the third round of cuts since the Swiss drugmaker announced nearly a year ago that it would whittle away all of the 525 jobs at the plant by 2016 and then close and demolish it.

The notice, posted Tuesday, says 22 jobs will be axed at the Suffern plant during a 14-day period starting March 31. That comes on top of 83 cuts that are supposed to start at the end of this month and 28 jobs that were cut in October. Novartis has said that after the closure, expected in 2016, it would transfer all the equipment from the site, demolish the plant and put the land up for sale.

There currently are 394 full-time employees at the plant, Novartis said Wednesday in a statement to FiercePharmaManufacturing: "The closure process began in the second quarter of 2014 and will be completed over the next two to three years. All positions (~525) will be impacted." It said the company "has strived to minimize the impact to associates by eliminating roles through attrition, vacancies and transfers to other Novartis facilities."

The plant is the victim of the patent loss on Novartis' blockbuster heart drug Diovan, which lost protection in September 2012. The New York plant's life was extended when Ranbaxy Laboratories, which was approved to make the first-to-file generic of the drug, ran into issues with the FDA at the plant where it was going to manufacture the copy. That plant was eventually banned, but in June, Ranbaxy secured FDA approval to make the generic at its Ohm Laboratories plant in New Jersey.

Novartis is significantly overhauling its manufacturing footprint as the drugmaker completes deals to sell its animal health business to Eli Lilly ($LLY) and its vaccine business to GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Australia's CSL. It is also closing an Alcon plant in Canada that makes eye drugs. The 300 jobs at that plant were slated to be gone by the end of this year.  

- here's the WARN notice

Special Report: Pharma's top 10 M&A deals of 2014's first half - GlaxoSmithKline Oncology/Novartis Vaccines (excluding flu) - Eli Lilly/Novartis Animal Health