(CTN News) – In a recent tornado that swept through eastern North Carolina on Wednesday, Pfizer, the American pharmaceutical giant, reported that most of the destruction at its plant affected the storage facility rather than the medicine production areas.
This is a relief to experts who feared significant consequences on the drug supply chain amid existing shortages in the United States.
According to Pfizer, the tornado, classified as an EF3, struck near Rocky Mount, causing severe damage to the roof of its factory responsible for manufacturing nearly 25% of the company’s sterile injectable medicines used in U.S. hospitals. However, the primary impact was on the warehouse for raw materials, packaging supplies, and finished medicines awaiting release.
Pfizer Rushes Products to Alternate Sites for Storage Following Tornado Damage
As of Friday, Pfizer confirmed no major damage to the medicine manufacturing areas, and all 3,200 local employees were safe and accounted for. This allows the drugmaker to salvage production equipment and essential materials, potentially mitigating the impact on the strained healthcare system.
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf reassured the public that there would be no immediate significant impacts on drug supply, as the affected products were already in hospitals and the distribution system.
The FDA will conduct a more extensive evaluation of the drugs that might be affected and the current domestic supply of those medications in the coming days.
While fewer than 10 drugs solely rely on Pfizer’s North Carolina plant for the U.S. market, the facility plays a crucial role in producing anesthesia and other drugs needed for surgeries, accounting for almost 8% of all sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals.
Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO, Dr. Albert Bourla, stated that staff diligently transport products to nearby storage sites and identify sources to quickly replace the raw materials lost in the storm.
The company is also exploring alternative manufacturing locations within its U.S. network to maintain production while the damaged North Carolina site undergoes repairs.
Fortunately, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, and Paxlovid treatments are not manufactured or stored at the Rocky Mount plant, ensuring that the tornado’s impact on these critical medications is limited.
The FDA and Pfizer are confident that despite the damage, “many weeks’ worth” of the destroyed drugs should be available in other Pfizer warehouses. Efforts are underway to minimize any disruptions to the supply chain and provide continuous access to essential medications for patients nationwide.