Friday, October 19, 2007

Pfizer idles 600 workers near Terre Haute

Six hundred workers at a Pfizer plant near Terre Haute are now left wondering about their employment future:

In a surprising move that raises questions about a similar product under development at Eli Lilly and Co., drug maker Pfizer is pulling the plug on its inhaled insulin after barely a year on the market, citing disappointing sales.

Pfizer said Thursday it will shut down production immediately at its plant near Terre Haute and place 600 of the factory's 750 workers on paid leave while it ponders the plant's future. The factory will continue to make several antibiotics, company spokesman Richard Chambers said, but he added it is unclear whether Pfizer will transfer any other production to the plant.

The company's decision was a huge blow to the work force and the city, which counts on Pfizer as one of its largest employers. Pfizer has spent about $300 million over the past five years to upgrade it and hired hundreds of workers to help make the inhaled insulin. The company has owned the plant nearly 60 years.

"Pfizer has been a fixture in this community for a long time," said Peter Ciancone, a spokesman for Mayor Kevin Burke. "Their investment in that plant was no small thing."

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