In a statement, Roche said it hoped to avoid closing the Florence facility by finding a new buyer. But the plant will be one of four worldwide that the drugmaker will eventually drop as it restructures manufacturing operations. The company said it is looking to move into more specialized medicine, which means less product than in previous years.
“With these changes we are responding to the evolution of our small molecule portfolio towards specialized medicines produced in lower volumes,” Chief Operating Officer of the Pharmaceuticals Division Daniel O’Day said in the announcement. “We are aware of the impact this decision has on our colleagues, and we will do our utmost to support them during this transition.”
Roche also plans to divest facilities in Ireland, Italy and Spain under the restructuring. The process will begin next year the company hopes to finish the transition by 2018.
A spokesman for the Florence site told the Morning News that no layoffs have been announced at this time. The site makes a critical ingredient for the flu vaccine Tamiflu, as well as a chemotherapy drug.
There have been warning signs for several years that Roche would not be in South Carolina much longer. The company returned $500,000 to the state Commerce Department in 2011 after previously warning it could close. The Florence County Council approved a new fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement last year based on a promise that Roche would eventually invest $50 million in upgrades and remain at the site at least another 10 years.