Drug manufacturing plant abruptly shuts down weeks after nasal spray recall

Hundreds of people are out of a job after a drug manufacturer based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, abruptly closed.

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Ei, a division of Florida-based Product Quest, claims on its website to set a new standard in pharmaceutical development and manufacturing, but its work in Kannapolis is a thing of the past.

A note on the door tells employees that as of yesterday, the plant is closed, but it doesn't say why.

After some digging, WSOC-TV learned last week that Product Quest recalled a CVS-brand nasal mist after discovering contamination.

The company later expanded the recall to include all nasal products and oral gels.

[FDA Document: Items associated with recall manufactured at Ei]

It also turns out in April, the Food and Drug Administration sent a scathing letter to the Kannapolis plant after finding significant violations that could lead to contamination.

The FDA said human drugs and pesticides were being manufactured on shared equipment.

Phone calls and voicemails to Ei and Product Quest were unreturned.

At the Kannapolis plant, company executives ran away and hid from WSOC-TV's reporter Joe Bruno when they saw him.

One person did a U-turn in the parking lot and exited through the back to avoid Bruno. A truck picking up signs for the company tried to drive away so quickly its door flung open.

The company also has a presence on International Drive NW in Concord. The doors were locked and no one answered knocks according to WSOC-TV.

A truck driver seeking to make a delivery to Ei said he could not get in touch with anyone and he did not know the company shut down.

In a WARN notice filed to the state, the company said the layoffs will occur between Nov. 5 and Nov. 19. two hundred ninety-six employees are impacted. The Department of Commerce is looking into why Ei said in the letter the layoffs will happen in November, but the plant closed on Sept. 6.

The president of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission said he was not forewarned about the layoffs.

A spokesperson for the FDA said by policy, the FDA does not discuss possible or ongoing compliance matters except with the party involved.

The departure of Ei is a major blow for the city of Kannapolis. In 2012, a contribution of $500,000 from the One North Carolina Fund helped make a 119-job expansion of the Kannapolis plant possible.

"We are saddened to hear this news but will work with our great network of agencies to assist employees," Annette Keller, director of communications for the city of Kannapolis, said. "With the positive trend of employment growth and companies moving to the Charlotte metro region, we will help identify opportunities for a successful transition to new employment."

Keller encourages laid-off employees to potentially explore opportunities at the new Amazon distribution center in Kannapolis.

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