Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced Monday it would invest $250 million into its 1,300-acre operations center in West Michigan to produce ingredients for its COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid.
The facility in Portage, just south of Kalamazoo, will be the company's only U.S. facility making medicinal ingredients in the pills. The investment will create 250 jobs at the plant, Pfizer said in a news release.
The timeline for the investment is unclear.
Paxlovid, which received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December, is a prescription drug therapy designed for use in mild or moderate cases of the deadly coronavirus.
The medications in the pills, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, work to stop the replication of the coronavirus in the bloodstream. Patients take the prescription antiviral twice a day for five days.
The Portage plant will manufacture the pharmaceutical ingredients and registering starting materials for nirmatrelvir, the company said.
"By increasing production at our Michigan facility, we are both helping patients around the world and expanding important manufacturing innovation to the U.S.," Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said in the release. "This investment builds upon our $5 billion of investments across our manufacturing and distribution portfolio since 2017 to support the ongoing growth of U.S. manufacturing leadership."
The primary objective of Paxlovid is to prevent hospitalization in a COVID-19 positive patient. Pfizer claims an 88 percent reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations and death in adults treated with the therapy within five days of symptom onset.
However, some patients and physicians have reported a "rebound" in COVID-19 symptoms after the five-day treatment has finished. Bourla proposed to the FDA a longer treatment regimen to prevent rebound, but thus far the FDA isn't convinced.
"There is no evidence of benefit at this time for a longer course of treatment … or repeating a treatment course of Paxlovid in patients with recurrent COVID-19 symptoms following completion of a treatment course," John Farley, director of the Office of Infectious Diseases at the FDA, said in a post on the FDA website last month.
The U.S. government ordered 20 million courses of Paxlovid, and about 5 million courses have been delivered thus far, the company said. In total, Pfizer has shipped 12 million courses of the antiviral therapy to 37 countries.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Detroit Business.