Novartis puts New York plant that makes Diovan next on its shutdown list

Novartis ($NVS) is in the middle of tightening its focus and cutting down on costs, and as the Swiss drugmaker goes through the evaluation process, its North American manufacturing is taking some hits. The most recent is a New York plant that employs 525, which the company now confirms it will be shutting down.

The company told PharmaTimes in a statement that the plant in Suffern, NY, makes Diovan, the blood pressure medicine that went off patent in September 2012; reports have said a delayed generic from Ranbaxy Laboratories may soon be on the market. Spokeswoman Julie Masow told Westchester County, NY's The Journal News that the shutdown process would start in the second quarter and stretch through at least 2016. Novartis will transfer workers who handle certain "necessary functions," and the rest will be laid off. Plans will conclude with transferring all equipment at the site, demolishing the plant and putting the land up for sale, she said.

"This difficult decision was a strategic choice made to optimize our manufacturing infrastructure," Masow told The Journal News in an email.

While local official Ed Day told the paper that Novartis seems to be transferring as many employees as it can, that may not be so easy for the pharma giant considering the other facility cuts it has in the works. In December, the company announced it would shutter a Canadian plant this year, slashing 300 jobs in Mississauga, Ontario, and shifting its production to a more efficient facility in Texas. And last April, 300 more workers found out they would lose their jobs at a struggling Lincoln, NE, consumer healthcare plant.

But when it comes to layoffs, the manufacturing cuts are just a piece of the bigger picture for the Swiss drugmaker as of late. The company announced 2,000 U.S. job cuts in 2012, primarily in sales and marketing, and in Switzerland it says it's planning to trim 500 R&D jobs while filling a similar number of new positions in manufacturing, supply-chain management and other functions to support new product rollouts.

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