Roche said today it will shut down four manufacturing sites worldwide—potentially eliminating approximately 1,200 jobs—in a global restructuring of its small-molecule operations.

Roche will shut down a U.S. plant in Florence, SC, as well as three overseas manufacturing sites—Clarecastle, Ireland; Leganes, Spain; and Segrate, Italy. The shutdowns will begin next year and end in 2021.

To reduce job losses, Roche said, it is “actively looking into” selling the four facilities.

The pharma giant said the restructuring was a response to the underuse of its small-molecule plants as its portfolio shifts toward biologics, as well as the lower volumes and new production techniques required by newer small-molecule specialty drugs.

Roche said it will address specialty small-molecule drugs by building a new CHF 300 million ($299.86 million) plant in Kaiseraugst, Switzerland.

“With these changes we are responding to the evolution of our small molecule portfolio towards specialized medicines produced in lower volumes,” says Daniel O’Day, COO of Roche’s Pharmaceuticals Division, said in a statement. “We are aware of the impact this decision has on our colleagues, and we will do our utmost to support them during this transition.”

In a separate statement, Roche said the Florence site will be shut down by 2018, affecting the facility’s 270 employees. The site consists of 300,000 square feet of production space, with reactors ranging from 50 – 11,000 liters producing multiple products simultaneously, according to the facility’s web page.

Roche said it will work with the public-private Florence County Economic Development Partnership to find a buyer for the site.

“The announcement made today is difficult for everyone on site. Florence has been a significant manufacturing operation since 1998 and a key part of the community. The proposal to exit is in no way a reflection on the performance of the people or the site,” Florence Site Head, Phil Adamson, stated.

The Irish plant employed 240 people and was opened in 1974 by Syntex Ireland, renamed Roche Ireland in 1994 following its acquisition by the pharma giant.

Roche said it will immediately begin talks with employee representatives in the countries where plants are being shut down, vowing: “Affected employees will be notified as soon as possible and will receive appropriate support during the transition.”

Roche estimated the restructuring would cost it CHF 1.6 billion ($1.599 billion) through 2021, of which up to CHF 600 million ($599.87 million) will be paid in cash.

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