Merck & Co has announced plans to shutter a plant in Ireland by the end of 2017 which will affect 570 staff.

The drugs giant, known as MSD outside the USA, says the closure of the facility in Swords, Co Dublin, is the result of an ongoing review of its worldwide manufacturing capabilities "that has resulted in sites being sold, closed or consolidated in all regions." About 130 people are expected to leave in the second half of 2014 with the remaining posts being phased out over the following three years.

MSD noted that it plans to work with IDA Ireland, the country's investment agency, "to aggressively pursue a buyer for the facility in order to potentially mitigate job losses". Plant boss Tony Pusic said "the proposal to cease operations is not a reflection of the site's performance or the highly skilled people working here".

Earlier this year, the company, which will continue to employ more than 2,000 people at other sites around Ireland, announced it was closing its active ingredient plant at Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, with the loss of 280 jobs.

Reacting to the news, IDA chief executive Barry O'Leary noted that "the extended lead-in time of 2017 will facilitate" the agency greatly in finding a buyer, adding that IDA "has a good track record in finding buyers for pharmaceutical sites such as this". In a statement sent to PharmaTimes, he acknowledged that the pharmaceutical sector "faces several global challenges, including over-capacity [but] significant fresh investment…is underway and several other pharmaceutical projects are currently in play and being pursued aggressively by Ireland".