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Pfizer confirms loss of 177 jobs at Cork manufacturing sites

Jobs at Little Island and Ringaskiddy will be lost in 2013, after the expiry of the Lipitor patent resulted in lower demand.

Sales of Lipitor have fallen since the anti-cholesterol drug's patents have begun to expire.
Sales of Lipitor have fallen since the anti-cholesterol drug's patents have begun to expire.
Image: Mark Lennihan/AP

PHARMACEUTICAL GIANT PFIZER has confirmed that 177 jobs are to be cut at two of its manufacturing plants in Co Cork throughout next year.

Staff were told this morning that the jobs will be lost through 2013 at its plants in Ringaskiddy and Little Island, subject to consultation.

“This is in response to reduced volumes of medicines manufactured at these sites and the need to re-scale operations appropriately,” the company said this morning in a statement.

The company said the expiration of its patents on the anti-cholesterol drug Atorvastatin – better known by its commercial brand, Lipitor – had meant a global decline in its demand.

Sales of the drug have fallen in recent months after the drug’s patent expired in the United States late last year and within the European Union last month – meaning it is now possible for other companies to produce cheaper generic equivalents.

Patent expiry means greater competition which impacts global demand, and we need to readjust the scale of our manufacturing operations,” Pfizer vice-president Dr Paul Duffy said, insisting that Ireland remained a ”key strategic location” with a dozen sites around the country.

Seamus Fives, the site leader at the Little Island and Ringaskiddy sites, said the decision to downsize the operations was “very difficult”.

“Little Island and Ringaskiddy are important sites within the Pfizer manufacturing network and all our colleagues deserve recognition for the great contribution they have made to manufacturing some of Pfizer’s leading medicines,” he said.

Fives explained that the expiry of a patent had two effects – as the manufacturing volume required reduces significantly, while the presence of a larger number of competitors means the costs of manufacturing must also be reduced in order to remain competitive.”

Bloomberg has previously estimated that Lipitor’s sales could be halved once its worldwide patents on the drug expire.

The move means Pfizer is cutting its Cork workforce by a fifth – around 900 of its 4,000 Irish staff work in Cork. Pfizer had already laid off around 30 sales staff in December following the expiry of the US patent.

The company also operates manufacturing plants at Grange Castle in Dublin, Newbridge, Askeaton in Limerick, and at Loughbeg in Cork. It also has administrative operations at Citywest and Ringsend.

Read: Pfizer sales staff face redundancy as patent expires on cholesterol drug

More: €19bn worth of Irish drug exports at risk as drug patents expire

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Gavan Reilly

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