Merck CEO Ken Frazier says West Point facility near Philly is safe for now

Merck's West Point Complex in West Point, Montgomery County. (File photo: Bob Williams / Staff)

Princeton, N.J. - Merck & Co., chief executive officer Ken Frazier told The Inquirer that the drugmaker's facility in the Philadelphia suburb of West Point, Montgomery County, is in no danger of being closed now.

Merck is among the many pharmaceutical companies that have announced in recent months plans to close or consolidate facilities in hopes of squeezing more efficiency out of their operations to increase profits or decrease losses. Some, but not all, of those decisions involved laying off employees.

Is West Point safe?

"Yes," Frazier said Thursday evening after speaking about Merck's worldwide vaccine programs at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. "We have no plans to do anything with respect to West Point. It is still the hub of Merck manufacturing and research."

In October, Merck said it planned to leave its current headquarters in Whitehouse Station, N.J., with about 2,000 employees moving to three other existing locations in New Jersey. Most would move to a facility in Summit, which Merck inherited when it bought Schering Plough in 2009, with others going to facilities in Branchburg and Cokesbury.

In January, pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen, which is based in Chesterbrook, said it would close its distribution center in Thorofare, Gloucester County.

In March, AstraZeneca said it would cut or move 1,200 jobs from its facility in Wilmington. About 2,000 employees will continue to work there, but that is down from a high of about 5,000 several years ago.

Also in March, GlaxoSmithKline said it planned to consolidate facilities in Montgomery County that house employees working in research. About 1,900 employees will move from two facilities in Upper Merion to an existing facility in Upper Providence during the next two to four years. A company spokeswoman said at the time that there were no planned layoffs as part of that move. However, Glaxo also said that day it would close a facility in Cambridge, Mass., and move some - but not all - of the 60 employees to Upper Providence.