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Scale of Mylan facility difficult to fathom


The State Journal

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  — There’s at least one security camera on just about every door and passageway in Mylan’s massive pill manufacturing plant in Morgantown. Technicians scurry around in blue and white protective gear, and signs, slogans and reminders adorn many of the walls.

“No photography, video or audio recording without authorization,” employees and visitors are reminded in the main lobby of the 1.1-million-square-foot main manufacturing facility. But once inside, many of the signs and placards remind workers of company philosophy and provide information that might be needed on the job.

“We do what’s right, not what’s easy,” reads one sign in a long, antiseptic hallway. Another poster depicts common defects in pills that have been improperly manufactured, and suggests likely causes for the problems.

It is difficult to gauge the sheer size of Mylan’s Morgantown tablet and capsule factory, which Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said is possibly the largest in the world. The manufacturing plant sits on approximately 19 acres the company has occupied since moving to Morgantown in 1966.

The plant contains 630 different processing rooms, and it’s the largest of 50 facilities Mylan operates in the United States and around the world.

Inside the labyrinthine plant are laboratories, a massive warehouse big enough to hold thousands of pallets of raw materials, and giant machines to size, mix and dispense ingredients for making generic drugs.

Bresch said Mylan prides itself on cleanliness and quality control.

“Quality is not a department here,” she said from the company board room following a tour of the plant. For Mylan, quality control is a corporate philosophy. And it begins before the first chemical is mixed.

Technicians hand-wash each and every barrel of raw material before it goes into Mylan’s warehouse. Containers of ingredients for making pills are transferred from wooden pallets to plastic skids, which are also painstakingly cleaned.

Samples of each ingredient are tested to make certain they are what they are said to be. Similar testing goes on during all aspects of tablet and capsule production.

Once an ingredient is chosen to make a medication, it must be made into a substance with a uniform size, weight and texture. Technicians operate one type of machine that does nothing but cut up and homogenize individual ingredients to the size and texture necessary for proper mixing with other ingredients.

Ingredients are combined together in large V-shaped barrels that flip end over end. The mixers come in different sizes, depending on how big a batch of drugs is being made, and technicians know to the minute how long it takes each machine to mix each different medication recipe.

Solid tablets and capsules are made on different machines.

It’s little wonder that the mammoth facility requires extensive manpower. Of 50 locations around the world, Morgantown is the largest with about 10 percent of the company’s 35,000 member workforce employed there.

Mike Laffin, director of global communications, said Mylan’s presence in Morgantown provides employment opportunities in a variety of fields.

“Because one of the company’s global R&D centers is housed in West Virginia, employment opportunities include a significant percentage of science and technology jobs as well as those in manufacturing,” he said. “Of the approximately 20 billion doses of medicine sold by Mylan in the U.S. in 2016, 17 billion of them were produced at the company’s 1 million square-foot manufacturing facility in Morgantown.”

Staff Writer Rusty Marks can be reached at 304-415-1480 or email at [email protected]. Staff Writer Charles Young contributed to this story.

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