Sanofi has announced plans to close a manufacturing plant in Newcastle, UK, cutting 450 jobs.
The French pharma firm said the closure of the Fawdon Manufacturing Centre, which is expected to be finalised by mid-2015, was influenced by the impact of generic on key products made there.
These include Sanofi's blockbuster bloodthinner Plavix (clopidogrel), which has already lost exclusivity in Europe and will go off-patent in the US in May.
Sales of Plavix have already started to fall, with annual revenues dropping by 2.1 per cent during 2011, and Sanofi is also preparing for generic competition for its hypertension treatment Avapro (irbesartan). The loss of exclusivity on the two drugs is expected to reduce its net income by €1.4bn in 2012.
On top of the generic competition Sanofi also cited "an adverse economic climate and the challenging pharmaceutical market in Europe" as reasons for the Newcastle site's closure.
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central and shadow minister for innovation and science, told the BBC she was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the decision.
“This is a major blow to manufacturing in the North East,” she said.
Speaking to Sky News Tyne and Wear, Bob Bolam from the union Unite said: "It came as a shock to the staff. We are looking to work with the company to mitigate any losses and to help the surrounding area which is obviously going to be devastated by the loss of the jobs."
In a statement, Sanofi said employees had been notified of the proposal, and a consultation with employee representatives was underway.
"We will support our people in every way we can to best manage the impact of this announcement and to help them through the consultation process and beyond," said the company.