Abbott to close Puerto Rico manufacturing plant

by Danica Coto

Abbott Laboratories is closing one of its manufacturing plants in the Puerto Rico town of Barceloneta next year, delivering another blow to the U.S. territory's once-thriving pharmaceutical sector, officials said Thursday.

It is unclear how many workers will be affected, although Barceloneta Mayor Wanda Soler told The Associated Press that the plant is the smallest one of several that Abbott operates in the north coastal town.

Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel confirmed that the plant would cease in mid-2015. He declined to say how many employees work there, but said the company employs a total of 1,500 people across Puerto Rico.

Abbott is the latest pharmaceutical company to announce a closure in Barceloneta, which with operations of two other U.S. drug companies was once the island's manufacturing hub.

In November, drug giants Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. released statements about a week apart announcing they would phase out their operations in Barceloneta. Both Pfizer and Merck said they would continue to manufacture elsewhere in Puerto Rico, and neither gave specific numbers on job losses since some positions would transfer.

Abbott's announcement comes as Puerto Rico tries to revive its economy under pressure from credit rating agencies as it enters an eighth year of recession and battles a 15.4 percent unemployment rate, higher than any U.S. state.

Puerto Rico is still among the world's leading centers for pharmaceutical manufacturing, and the sector accounts for roughly a quarter of the island's economy, but the sector has been in retreat. Since 2000, when they had about 20,000 employees on the island, drug makers have eliminated more than 9,000 jobs, hitting Barceloneta and nearby towns along the island's north-central coast.

"It's a bit worrisome, I have to admit," Barceloneta's mayor said. She added that she is working with the island's government to attract new business. "We have several plants that are in perfect condition."

Antonio Medina, executive director of Puerto Rico's Industrial Development Company, said officials are offering incentives for existing to expand. The government also hopes to diversify the manufacturing base by expanding in such sectors as aerospace and information technology, lessening the importance of pharmaceuticals, he said in a recent interview.

"The healthiest economy is one that is highly diversified," Medina said. "No one sector can be the economy's magic wand."

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Puerto Rico allocates $2M to fight citrus disease

Aug 27, 2013

Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency Tuesday and ordered the release of $2 million to help agriculture officials fight a disease that has attacked citrus trees in the U.S. territory.

Report: Puerto Rico unprepared for climate change

Aug 24, 2013

Environmental officials and scientists warned Friday that Puerto Rico is dangerously vulnerable to the effects of global climate change and urged it to prepare by better-regulated coastal development, and ...

Recommended for you

Health care M&A leads global deal surge

2 hours ago

In a big year for deal making, the health care industry is a standout. Large drugmakers are buying and selling businesses to control costs and deploy surplus cash. A rising stock market, tax strategies and ...

US approves new, hard-to-abuse hydrocodone pill (Update)

Nov 20, 2014

U.S. government health regulators on Thursday approved the first hard-to-abuse version of the painkiller hydrocodone, offering an alternative to a similar medication that has been widely criticized for lacking ...

Soaring generic drug prices draw Senate scrutiny

Nov 20, 2014

Some low-cost generic drugs that have helped restrain health care costs for decades are seeing unexpected price spikes of up to 8,000 percent, prompting a backlash from patients, pharmacists and now Washington ...

Only half of patients take their medications as prescribed

Nov 20, 2014

The cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed can be substantial in terms of their health. Although a large amount of research evidence has tried to address this problem, there are no well-established ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.