I was delighted to be invited by Allergan on a 2 day trip to Westport, Mayo, Ireland to have a tour of their manufacturing facility – the one and only place in the world where the original and genuine ‘BOTOX®’ is produced.
I was especially honoured to hear that this is only the 4th time that Allergan have arranged this tour for cosmetic practitioners, and the 2nd time that the group of attendees were entirely from UK & Ireland.
Westport is a picture-postcard town on the West coast of Ireland with a population of 5,500. It has been voted as the ‘Best place to live in Ireland’. Everyone in the town has some connection with the factory – they either work there or have a relative who does. Allergan set up here in 1977 and now employ 850 people at the site. Over 50% of the total workforce are science graduates & I gather that the average employee works there for 11 years.
The 30 acre campus we were shown is an amazing, state-of-the-art manufacturing, filling & packaging operation. There are two plants on site – an Ophthalmic plant and a Biologics plant (where BOTOX® is made) – both of which we toured. We’re told the entire campus produces close to 800 million units of product on an annual basis.
BOTOX® is derived from a bacterium and all aspects of its production are strictly controlled. This is critical to the safety and quality of the end product. We saw the Restricted Access Barrier System (RABS) which Allergan had developed. Here men worked in a sealed glass unit, wearing a full body boiler suit, goggles & gloves, with no skin exposed. I’m told it takes them weeks to learn how to put the outfits on without touching the outsides of them. They operate the BOTOX® production line (which is in another sealed glass unit within theirs) via hand holes in the glass with in-built enormous rubber gloves. In this way the workers are never in direct contact with production line. Even the air is recycled 200 times faster than standard air conditioning. In between adjusting the machines they sit with their hands held out in front of them, not touching their lap, to further eliminate any chance of contamination.
Allergan have auditing visits each year from global drug administration authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and always get an unblemished report, confirming their unsurpassable standards. They also achieve 100% recycling & are the only pharmaceutical company to do this.
As a clinician I am hugely impressed with Allergan’s facilities at Westport and the manufacturing excellence which goes into making BOTOX®. I can now see that every vial is reliable & identical. I am proud to be associated with Allergan & would place my trust in no other Botulinum Toxin. You tend to get what you pay for, and in prescribing BOTOX® for my patients I know I am buying the original anti-wrinkle injection rather than a newer, cheaper version.
I have to confess that our 2 day trip wasn’t all work. On our last night we went into Westport town, to a traditional Irish pub, Matt Molloy’s. It was like stepping back in time 50 years! The pub, owned by the flautist from the Chieftans, has live Irish music in the back room. We had to elbow our way through to get there, pressed chest to chest, & then enjoyed the unscripted Irish jamming session, with an irresistible urge to toe tap incessantly, watching pensioners dancing around a broom.