Pfizer cancels €400m Dublin expansion after drug setback
Project promising 1,250 construction roles pulled after failure of key cholesterol drug
Pfizer had expected cholesterol drug bococizumab to deliver sales of almost $1 billion a year. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire
Pfizer has cancelled a planned €400 million expansion of its Grange Castle plant in Dublin, a development which would have led to permanent employment for 350 people and 1,250 jobs during construction.
The company, one of Ireland’s largest private sector employers, sought planning permission earlier this year for a major extension to the plant.
However, the plans have been undermined by the failure earlier this month of a high-profile late-stage pipeline drug to lower cholesterol.
Pfizer said it had discovered unexpected side effects with the drug, an injection called bococizumab, and that it was becoming less effective over time. It also noted two rival drugs had been struggling to meet sales targets. As a result, it decided to discontinue development of the drug.
Pfizer had expected bococizumab to deliver sales of almost $1 billion a year. Instead, it has been left with a major hole in its late-stage pipeline and nothing to show for tens of millions of dollars spent in its development.
The company had close to 30,000 people enrolled in late-stage trials of the drug at the time it announced its intention to give up on its development.
At the time the planning application was lodged last July, the company said permission for the 34,500sq m expansion on the 36-acre site was being sought “contingent upon the continued successful clinical development of investigational compounds in Pfizer’s mid- and late-stage pipeline”.
The failure of bococizumab was critical to those plans, as Pfizer had planned to manufacture the drug at the Grange Castle site, where it currently produces two of its largest selling drugs – arthritis blockbuster Enbrel and the vaccine Prevenar, which is used in children to prevent pneumococcal infections.
The company spokeswoman said it was possible that some smaller scale investment and expansion would take place in Dublin over the next year or so.
“Following the decision to discontinue the development of bococizumab, part of the potential expansion for which the planning permission was sought will not now go ahead,” she said. “Expansion in relation to other incoming products will continue as planned, involving investment, recruitment and new technology.”
Pfizer already employs around 1,100 people at the former Wyeth plant in west Dublin and 3,300 across seven different sites in Ireland.
The failure of bococizumab is the second high-profile flop in the last decade for Pfizer in the area of cholesterol. In 2006, the company abandoned another drug, torcetrapib, after a large phase three study revealed a significantly increased risk of mortality and cardiovascular events in patients receiving the drug.
Pfizer, which has been under pressure in the United States over pricing and its efforts to reduce its tax bill by completing a corporate inversion with Irish-domiciled Allergan, said the Grange Castle decision had nothing to do with plans by US president-elect Donal Trump to try to encourage business back to the US by cutting tax rates.
Regulatory hurdles put in place by the Obama administration specifically to scupper the $160 billion Allergan deal forced it to abandon that plan.