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Wyeth To Invest $250 Million More In Local Plants

String of new products could ensure permanence of Guayama plant for next decade


August 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Co., which in the past 18 years has spent nearly $350 million on its Guayama plant, has completed the first phase of an additional $100 million expansion that will be operational next year, adding 150,000 square feet to its existing 1.1 million square feet of space and 50 to 100 employees to its current work force of 2,400.

Sister plant Wyeth-Ayerst Lederle Inc. in Carolina is undergoing a $150 million expansion, the first phase of which will be operational in November; the second to start production at the end of 2003. This brings Wyeth’s total investment in expansions to the Carolina plant to $300 million since 1999.

Mariano Martinez, vice president and general manager of Wyeth’s Guayama operations, said he is confident that nine new products in various stages of company and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approvals will be manufactured in Guayama over the next decade. This will ensure it remains Wyeth’s most modern and largest tablet & capsule manufacturing plant. It is also among the largest such pharmaceutical plants in the world.

The second phase of the Guayama construction is expected to be finished in late 2004 or early 2005. Then it must undergo a validation process by federal regulatory agencies, which takes 12 to 18 months, before it can manufacture products for commercial use.

The Guayama plant was built on a 95-acre site in 1985. It was originally 650,000 square feet and employed 400 people. "Over the years, we have been able to bring to our local operations the intermediate phases of new products, which bring with them new technology," Martinez said. The plants have to be refurbished and expanded to create new lines of production. Originally the plant manufactured six families of products. Today there are 35 families for a total of 110 products of different sizes and different doses.

Wyeth Vice President & General Manager Hector M. Cabrera, who is responsible for company sales in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, said that a common trait among local pharmaceutical plant managers is their aggressiveness in acquiring new products.

"All of the local plant managers are constantly striving to get new products and to keep their plant in optimum condition," Cabrera said. That is especially important because once a product loses its patent, its sales diminish as generic versions are produced.

The Guayama plant produces three blockbuster drugs which it sells directly to the world. Two of these are Efexol, with $2 billion-plus in annual sales, and Protonix, with more than $1 billion in annual sales. The latter is manufactured exclusively in Puerto Rico, while some of Efexol is also made at Wyeth’s Irish plant. Other important drugs made in Guayama are Premarin, used for the treatment of menopause and osteoporosis, with annual sales of close to $2 billion; Advil; Alesse; Axid; Dristan; Gestoden; Inderal; Isordil; Orudis; Sonata Lodine, and Triphasil.

Tomas Ramirez, vice president and general manager of the Carolina operations, said his seven-building plant, which will occupy 470,000 square feet when the expansion is completed, is Wyeth’s biggest lyophilization plant and one of the largest in the world. Lyophilization, otherwise known as freeze drying, involves subjecting a product to extreme cold so that any water in it transforms from solid to vapor, skipping the liquid stage and providing stability to the product.

The Carolina plant makes antibiotics and injectable anti-inflammatory drugs. Ramirez said the plant manufactures 25 products in different doses and different sizes, for a total of 50 products. Of these, 20 are manufactured solely in Carolina and distributed to the world through affiliated operations. One of its bestsellers is Tazocin, an injectable penicillin drug.

Before the expansion started there were 450 employees in Carolina. Now there are 900 with an annual payroll of $34 million. Ramirez said, however, that the number could grow to 1,100. The plant runs three shifts, for operations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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