The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has moved swiftly to alleviate concerns over potential drug shortages following the tornado strike on a Pfizer plant in North Carolina. Assuring the public, the FDA stated that there are currently ample supplies of drugs in hospitals and the distribution system to prevent a crisis.
Contrary to initial reports that the plant supplied 25% of sterile injectables to U.S. hospitals, the FDA clarified that it only represents 8% of the market. Moreover, it confirmed that the plant is the sole source for only a few drugs, minimizing the potential impact on supply.
In a statement released on Friday, Dr. Robert Califf, director of the FDA, reassured stakeholders that no immediate significant disruptions in supply are anticipated.
Providing an update on the situation, Pfizer announced on Friday that while the warehouse at the facility had suffered the most damage, the areas where medicines were produced appeared to be largely unaffected. The company confirmed that all 3,200 employees at the site were safe and accounted for. Although no timeline for resuming production was given, Pfizer expressed its commitment to restore full function to the site as quickly as possible. Additionally, Pfizer stated that it is exploring alternative manufacturing locations both within its own facilities and externally.
The tornado damage at Pfizer’s manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, heightened concerns about shortages of sterile injectable medicines—a problem that has been growing in the U.S. in recent years. Acquired by Pfizer in 2015, the Rocky Mount plant is one of the largest sterile injectable manufacturing facilities worldwide.
Pfizer Plant Hit by Tornado: Impact on Drug Supply
The devastating tornado that recently hit a Pfizer plant in Rocky Mount, North Carolina has had a significant impact on the production of sterile injectables. The plant is responsible for manufacturing nearly a quarter of Pfizer’s sterile injectable drugs.
According to the FDA, the plant is the sole source of “less than 10” drugs, which may now be in short supply. However, the agency reassured the public that there should be “many weeks’ worth of stock” available for these drugs. Some of the affected drugs could potentially be substituted with alternative options.
In response to the situation, the FDA has taken immediate action by initiating mitigation steps to address drug shortages or potential shortages. This proactive approach aims to ensure that patients continue to have access to the necessary medications.
Pfizer has stated that the warehouse at the facility, which was destroyed by the tornado, housed raw materials for medicines among other things. The company is currently exploring options for replacing the damaged raw materials to resume production as soon as possible.
Following news of the tornado strike, Pfizer’s competitors in the sterile injectables market experienced a temporary surge in their share prices. However, this surge has since subsided. For instance, Hikma Pharmaceuticals saw a 5.4% increase in its American Depository Receipt (ADR) on Thursday, which dropped by 4.8% on Friday to close at $50.50. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s shares climbed by 0.9% on Thursday and 1.7% on Friday.
Images of the Rocky Mount facility reveal extensive damage caused by the tornado. The roof and sides of the warehouse building were torn apart, and several trailers were overturned. The scene underneath the damaged roof displayed a chaotic mess of twisted racks and pallets.
The tornado has been classified as an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with peak winds reaching an estimated 150 miles per hour. What makes it particularly noteworthy is that it is the first EF-3 tornado ever recorded in central North Carolina during July, as confirmed by the National Weather Service’s data.