Most of the damage from the tornado that struck eastern North Carolina Wednesday and hit a large Pfizer pharmaceutical plant affected storage facilities rather than drug production areas, the company said Friday.
As the U.S. faces existing drug shortages, the ability of pharmaceutical companies to reclaim production equipment and other essential materials could alleviate what experts feared would be a major blow to an already strained regime.
“Given the products currently in hospitals and distribution systems, we do not expect any immediate material impact on supply,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration Administrator Robert Calif said Friday.
An EF3 tornado made landfall near Rocky Mount on Wednesday and blew off the roof of a Pfizer plant that produces nearly 25% of the US pharmaceutical giant’s sterile injectables used in US hospitals, according to the pharmaceutical company.
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Pfizer said Friday that its warehouses, which store raw materials, packaging materials and finished products waiting to be released, have withstood most of the damage at the 1.4 million-square-foot factory. Initial inspections by the company did not reveal any major damage to the pharmaceutical manufacturing area, and all 3,200 local employees are safe and sound.
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Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourra said employees are rushing products to nearby locations to identify storage locations and sources to quickly replace raw materials lost in the storm. The company said it is exploring alternative manufacturing sites across its U.S. network to fill gaps in production while its North Carolina facility is closed for repairs.
Caliph said the FDA’s initial analysis identified fewer than 10 drugs for which Pfizer’s North Carolina plant was the sole source of supply to the U.S. market.
The Rocky Mount plant produces anesthetics and many other drugs needed for surgeries, but it does not manufacture or store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines or the treatments for Comilnati and Paxlovid. Pfizer said on its website that medicines manufactured at the facility alone account for nearly 8% of all sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals.
The FDA said it will complete a more extensive evaluation of potentially affected products and the current domestic supply of those medicines in the coming days. “Weeks’ supply” of destroyed medicines should be available at other Pfizer warehouses, Calif said.
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