Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ Smithfield Plant Closure A Surprise To RI Officials

Sep 13, 2017

Pharmaceutical company Alexion announced Tuesday it will close its plant in Smithfield, taking 250 jobs with it. 

The Smithfield site made a drug known as Solaris, which can treat two genetic disorders, including a rare blood disease. But Alexion CEO Ludwig Hantson said the manufacturing facility does not fit company’s plans for the upcoming launch of new medicines.

“We also need to be ready from an operations perspective to support that,” Ludwig said Tuesday. “Rhode Island does not allow us to be a multi-product facility, so we are planning towards the future.”

According to Ludwig, it will continue company manufacturing in other U.S. sites, Ireland and its contract partners.

The closure is part of a larger cost saving move by the company, which officials claim will bring $270 million in annual savings.

That larger plan moves the company headquarters from New Haven, Connecticut to Boston. It will also cut 20 percent of Alexion’s global workforce by the middle of next year.

Rhode Island Commerce Corporation spokesman Matt Sheaff said the news came as a surprise to the state.

“While we did know that the company was having some troubles through media reports, we were notified yesterday of this decision by the company for their global restructure,” Sheaff said.

The agency said in a statement, it is disappointed to see the pharmaceutical company close the Smithfield plant.

More recently, the company announced it was under investigation for its involvement with charitable organizations that help Medicare patients. Before that, it was under scrutiny for questionable sales practices.

Sheaff said the Commerce Corporation has two goals in conversations with Alexion officials.

“First we’ve been intensely working with them in regard to making sure their employees, the Rhode Island employees currently working there will be able to transition to other jobs,” Sheaff said. “The second thing we’ve been in conversation is working together to market the current property and building and find a new tenant.”

The state’s Department of Labor and Training will help former employees find new jobs.

The DLT says it is ready to assist workers with filing for unemployment benefits and health insurance through its Rapid Response program. The DLT will announce meetings for employees where some of their questions can be answered. DLT also has clinics available for those who need help writing resumes. Mike Healey is a spokesman for the DLT.

“It shows how quickly the economy and how quickly sectors of the economy can change, and there’s no question it’s a challenge when you’re dealing with a scale of people,” said DLT spokesman Michael Healey.

Healey says there are jobs in Rhode Island that could match the skills of the workforce to be laid off by Alexion.