Pfizer has confirmed that 180 jobs are to go at its manufacturing plant at Little Island, Cork after the drugs major confirmed that efforts to sell the facility had fallen through.

The writing seemed to be on the wall for the facility after Pfizer decided in December 2006 to end development of its new cholesterol lowerer torcetrapib due to safety concerns. The compound would have been manufactured in Ireland and last year the firm said that it hoped to sell two sites (Little Island and Loughbeg) as going concerns.

An "extensive" sales effort has proved unsuccessful, however, and subject to redundancy consultation requirements, Little Island will close by the end of 2009. Pfizer’s vice president of manufacturing for Ireland and Singapore, Paul Duffy, said the company had “worked tirelessly over the past 18 months” to sell the Little Island plant as a going concern. "We were initially optimistic that we would find a buyer,” he added, “because there was considerable interest. Unfortunately, that interest has not translated into a sale.”

“This is a difficult day for all of our impacted colleagues and we all share in their disappointment”, Mr Duffy said. He added Pfizer had marketed the property internationally and shown it to a number of interested parties. “Many visitors commented favourably” on the workers at Little Island and the state-of-the-art facilities, Mr Duffy noted, “but the excess of manufacturing capacity already available in Western Europe did not help endeavours”.

The news is a blow, coming eight months after Pfizer completed the closure of one part of another plant (in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork) which resulted in the loss of 65 jobs. However the New York-based drugs giant is still investing in Ireland and last May announced that it plans to invest 190 million euros to set up a new biologics facility in Shanbally, adjacent to the Ringaskiddy site, which will create 100 “high quality” jobs over three years.