Forced into a corner by lagging product development, patent expirations, and insurers unwilling to pay the price of new drugs,
major pharmaceutical companies have undertaken a wave of restructuring efforts designed to improve their efficiency and bolster
profitability. One of the most tangible components of those restructuring efforts has been the divestiture or closure of underused
manufacturing facilities. According to William Wiederseim, founder and president of PharmaBioSource Inc. (Blue Bell, PA), a consulting firm for pharmaceutical companies on facility divestitures as well as a broker for pharmaceutical
properties, there are currently 20 million-ft2 of pharmaceutical space for sale in North America alone.
In the recent past, facility divestitures by major pharmaceutical companies have driven the growth of the contract manufacturing
industry. Most contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) got their start or built their networks by buying redundant Big
Pharma facilities, especially in Europe and Canada. Buying existing facilities provided low-cost capacity (because facilities
could be acquired at a fraction of their replacement value) and immediate revenues from contracts to continue producing products
made at the acquired facilities. Examples of CMOs that entered the industry or grew their capacity through facility acquisitions
include Patheon (Toronto, Ontario), NextPharma (Surrey, UK), Norwich Pharmaceuticals (Norwich, NY), Recipharm (Stockholm), Nicholas Piramal (Mumbai, India), and Draxis Pharma (Montreal, Quebec).
In an interesting reversal of the past trend, CMOs are now joining the list of sellers. Earlier this year, Patheon announced plans to sell its solid and semi-solid–liquid dose operations in Burlington and Fort Erie, Ontario, where it manufactures
over-the-counter (OTC) products. More recently, Catalent, formerly Cardinal Health Pharmaceutical Technologies and Services,
put its Albuquerque, New Mexico, facility on the market. PharmaBioSource is representing Catalent for sale of that site.
Like their Big Pharma brethren, the two CMOs turned to selling their operations as a means of improving financial performance
by getting rid of underperforming assets. Patheon's OTC business, run largely from the Burlington and Fort Erie sites, has
experienced declining revenues and profits for several years. The operations are still profitable, but the company's executives
and new private-equity investors see no place for them in their ongoing restructuring efforts. Catalent's Albuquerque facility,
which was once owned by Pharmacia, has been plagued by operating and regulatory problems despite substantial investment during
the past five years.
Table A: Recent facility sales
A tough sell?
Despite the rapidly increasing inventory of pharma assets that are for sale, Wiederseim of PharmaBioSource predicts that both
the Patheon and Catalent operations are likely to find buyers. He notes that the Patheon facilities have contracts, which
will give a buyer an immediate revenue stream.
In Albuquerque, injectables manufacturing operations may prove to be attractive because injectables capacity is much sought
after, driven by new biologics in the pipeline and a growing number of injectable generic and branded generic products coming
to market. There were about seven injectables facilities on the market in the United States, according to Wiederseim, but
several were sold in recent months. Abraxis BioScience (Los Angeles, CA) recently announced it will buy a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, from Watson Pharmaceuticals (Corona, CA); while a start-up venture, JHP Pharmaceuticals, is buying the King Pharamceuticals facility in Michigan. Both properties are older and have a history of regulatory problems, but the lack of alternatives combined
with the high cost and long timeframe of green field construction made them attractive options. Abraxis has been a particularly
active buyer, having acquired injectables facilities in Puerto Rico and Illinois in the past year, as well as the Phoenix
According to Wiederseim, specialized capabilities are central to successfully selling a facility in today's market. Biologics
and injectables manufacturing facilities are in great demand, he says, as are pharmaceutical-chemical manufacturing facilities
with high-containment capabilities. Deals that include products (as does the JHP deal) or manufacturing contracts also have
a greater chance of success.