RIVERSIDE — Merck plans to phase out its Cherokee Plant, beginning in 2024, affecting approximately 300 full-time workers, the company confirmed on Wednesday.
The final closing date is unknown, according to the statement.
“We will start discontinuation of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing in 2024, which will lead to the ultimate closure of the Cherokee manufacturing site,” the statement read. “Currently, we do not know the ultimate disposition of the site.
“This decision will impact approximately 300 full-time Merck employees, with separations occurring in a phased approach over a number of years; no separations related to this closure are expected in 2022. It’s important to emphasize that the decision to cease operations is no reflection of the performance of our Cherokee employees.”
Merck said it is committed to assisting and supporting employees and providing separation benefits. The plant’s employees also can apply for other positions within the company, with job transfers timed to ensure continued operation of Cherokee.
The Cherokee plant produces imipenem nonsterile and cilastatin nonsterile for the antibiotics Primaxin/Tienam and Recarbrio, as well as ertapenem sodium for Invanz, also an antibiotic.
Merck will continue to produce those antibiotics through its existing network of facilities after the Cherokee Plant closes, the statement read.
“Merck is committed to Pennsylvania. The company employs approximately 14,000 people in the state, and in total to date, has invested over $3 billion in our Pennsylvania operations, manufacturing medicines and vaccines that help save and improve lives around the world,” the company said.
Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Sam Schiccatano said the county was informed on Wednesday afternoon of Merck’s closing. No other information was provided to the commissioners, he said.
The plant, one of the Danville area’s largest employers, sits along the Susquehanna River on a 323-acre complex, 127 of those acres inside the fence line.
The complex covers 323 acres with 127 acres inside the fence line.
In 2011, seven months after Merck bought back the plant it sold just a few years earlier, company officials announced plans to sell off one product line and outsource others by the end of 2013 in an attempt to cut costs.
Merck’s 433 employees at the time were informed of the pending sale of its fermentation operations and decision to outsource the manufacturing of two products.
Merck Sharp & Dohme Co. reacquired the plant in September of 2010, when the new owner, PRWT Services Inc., determined it could not meet the “challenging business environment in the pharmaceutical industry.”
Merck sold the Cherokee Plant to PRWT 2 1/2 years earlier.
The number of employees decreased to the current total of about 300 by 2013, according to newspaper archives.