One of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing plants in the United States is scheduled to close its doors on July 31.
Located on 22 acres in Morgantown, West Virginia, the plant, built in 1965 by the former American generic drug company Mylan Laboratories, has manufactured 61 drugs, including a substantial portion of the world’s supply of levothyroxine, a critical thyroid drug. . Its 1,431 highly trained workers – analytical chemists, industrial engineers and senior janitors among them – are represented by the steelworkers union. They are all scheduled to be laid off at the end of the month.
The Biden administration has a stated goal of increasing the domestic production of pharmaceuticals, and the Morgantown plant is one of the few facilities on national soil producing vital and affordable drugs for the US market. The plant has also elevated hundreds of West Virginia families to the middle class, and the children of its employees have become doctors and lawyers.
Under Mylan co-founder Mike Puskar, employees received free medical care and medications, Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas bonuses and generous salaries. “My father toured the plant once a week,” said Puskar’s daughter. Johanna, He said Vanity Fair. “He knew everyone’s names. He knew the names of his children. He knew his parents’ names. “Puskar died in 2011, nine years after he placed a businessman named Robert J. Coury in the helmet of the company.
The new corporate entity, Viatris Inc., was formed in November 2020 when Mylan merged with Pfizer’s subsidiary, Upjohn. A month later, it announced plans to close the Morgantown plant and told staff it would move most of the manufacturing to India and some to Australia, according to a plant employee.
This would seem to be the perfect fight for the lead US Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin III, a fickle advocate for high-paying union jobs for Mountain State workers. But when United Steelworkers Local 8-957 officials managed to get about two minutes of his time, via a video call he took from the US Senate, there was no fight at all. “I’m sorry for your luck,” he told them. , according to a union leader and confirmed by five others who participated in the March 10 call. “It seems they have made a corporate decision. I can do very little. “
A spokesman for Senator Manchin vehemently denied this version of the call. In a statement to Vanity fair, Manchin said, “For months, I have been in discussions with Viatris, Monongalia County, the Morgantown Area Association, and local and state leaders to find a solution that protects every job.”
But union leaders say they never heard from Manchin after his brief call. “We can’t get to him” Joseph Gouzd, president of the local steelworkers union, he told me. “He will not respond. Your helpers will not respond. ”His repeated phone calls and meeting requests have gone unanswered.
Union leaders believe that Manchin’s silence is due to the fact that his daughter Heather Bresch, the former CEO of Mylan, walked away with a $ 30.8 million gold parachute from the Mylan-Upjohn merger. The resulting entity, which so quickly targeted the Morgantown plant for closure, is led by former colleagues of Mylan de Bresch, who were also exorbitantly compensated in the merger.
“My father spent his entire life for that company to be successful, and it took less than 10 years to destroy it,” Johanna Puskar said as she contemplated the imminent closure. “They came and stole it blindly until there was nothing left.”
In a lengthy statement to Vanity fair, In response to detailed questions, Viatris said it was committed to ensuring continuity of supply, maintaining the quality of its medications, and providing generous compensation packages for its workers. The decision to close the Morgantown plant “was one we did not take lightly and in no way reflects the company’s appreciation for the commitment, work ethic and valuable contributions of our employees,” he said.
For years, Mylan’s flagship plant weathered an industry-wide outsourcing tsunami.
Even as Western pharmaceutical companies relocated manufacturing capacity overseas, seeking cheaper labor, weaker environmental regulations, and more distance from keen-eyed inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration, the Morgantown plant prospered. Due to the plant’s exemplary inspection record and massive scale of operations, the FDA used it for decades as a training ground for its inspectors.