Above: The newly acquired USAntibiotics building on Industrial Drive in Bristol, Tenn. Photo by Jeff Derby
By Scott Robertson
Jackson Healthcare, a healthcare company headquartered just north of Atlanta, announced last week it has purchased the former Neopharma building in Bristol, Tenn. In a release dated April 19, the company said it purchased the 360,000-square-foot antibiotic production facility and around 40 acres surrounding it on April 16. “The Bristol, Tenn.-based antibiotic manufacturing facility will be known as USAntibiotics,” Jackson Healthcare said in the release. The company said it would, “provide further updates in the coming months on the restart of production and other key milestones.”
Those milestones may depend on talks still underway with economic developers. Clay Walker, CEO of NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership declined to comment on the potential number of employees or capital investment the county expects Jackson Healthcare to bring, telling the Business Journal, “no deal has been struck, and no one on the economic development team is permitted to comment.”
The 43-year-old plant has had several owners, including GlaxoSmithKline and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. Most recently, it was owned by Neopharma, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, in 2018. Neopharma closed the Bristol facility in August 2020, laying off between 40 and 50 workers at the time.
While the plant ceased production, the facility was maintained, as were the company’s licenses to produce antibiotics under the Food & Drug Administration.
In addition, Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger worked to maintain the value of the property during the period in which it was tied up in bankruptcy proceedings. In January, Harshbarger sent a letter to Acting Director Brandon Wales of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to reaffirm the critical infrastructure designation for the then-Neopharma facility. On February 4, CISA replied reaffirming the designation would remain in place.
The Bristol facility was put on the market immediately after the CISA reconfirmation in early February.
“The reconstitution of our domestic manufacturing capability for life-saving penicillin is a national imperative,” said Harshbarger at the time. “Our reliance on China and foreign-sourced raw materials for antibiotic production presents a severe deficiency in the reliability of the supply chain and actively undermines our national security and public health interests.”
Jackson Health made no mention of penicillin in its April statement, saying it had, “purchased the last manufacturing facility in the United States that is authorized to produce Amoxicillin and Amoxicillin Clavulanate, commonly known as Amoxil and Augmentin.” The facility is licensed to produce those drugs. In 2008, every dose of Amoxicillin and Amoxicillin Clavulanate in the U.S. was produced in the Bristol, Tenn. facility.
“Amoxicillin and Amoxicillin Clavulanate account for more than 30 percent of all antibiotics prescribed each year, and today, approximately one in 12 people in the U.S. are prescribed Amoxicillin on an annual basis,” the company said. “Given the widespread use and demand for these medications, restarting production in the Bristol manufacturing facility is significant, helping the U.S. build its supply of these essential antibiotics.”
While no production estimates or potential employee headcounts have been made public, the facility is capable of producing more than two billion tablets annually. “We are now beginning the critical work that goes with restarting the facility. It has a deep history and proven track record of tremendous production power and quality. We look forward to bringing it back to full capacity and all that will mean for Americans who need these vital antibiotics,” said Rick Jackson, founder and chairman of Jackson Health.
“Jackson Healthcare is delighted to share this news and extend a big thank you to the employees of the manufacturer and communities of Eastern Tennessee. With an unwavering commitment to the facility and production of these life-saving medications, they are the true heroes in this story,” said Shane Jackson, president of Jackson Healthcare in the release. “We are thrilled to welcome them to the Jackson Healthcare family of companies.”