The 120mph storm reached the US on August 27 causing at least 35 deaths in 10 states and cutting off power to an estimated 7.5 million homes as it made its way from South Carolina along the coast to Maine.
But, despite Irene’s path leading it through key drug manufacturing hubs like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, early reports suggest that pharmaceutical manufacturers have been relatively unaffected.
UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline shut its facility in Oak Hill New Jersey on Monday after ‘water leakage’ and ‘power outages’ according to various press reports.
GSK Spokeswoman Sarah Alspach told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: "Fortunately, [there had been] no significant damage, aside from some power outages and minor water leakage. All of our operations, with the exception of a manufacturing facility in New York, were operating as normal on Monday.
"As of today, service has been fully restored at our manufacturing facility in Oak Hill, NY. However, the county is still under a state of emergency and therefore employees in that area are unable to travel safely to work.
"We are prepared to resume normal operations at the site following guidance from local authorities. We have encouraged all of our employees in areas affected by the storm to use judgment to ensure they can travel safely to work."
Hoffmann-La Roche also experienced some flooding at its R&D facility in Nutley. Company spokeswoman Darien Wilson told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: "The damage was quite minor and the site is open and fully operational."
Additionally, according to the AP, Johnson & Johnson halted operations at its plant in New Brunswick, due to flooding, Cephalon closed a labelling plant in West Chester and Bayer HealthCare closed its unit in Morristown after a powercut.
Israeli drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries closed an office in Woodcliff Lake after a powercut. Spokeswoman Denise Bradley told in-Pharmatechnologist that the Woodcliff site resumed operations on Tuesday.
The picture for chemical suppliers was less clear according to Christine Sanchez from the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).
She told in-Pharmatechnologist.com the organisation has not “received feedback yet from member companies, which is a little unusual. They could be grappling with the aftermath of the storm, I’m not sure. Also, many are on vacation this week as Monday is Labor Day.”
Sanchez explained that members in the region - eight suppliers and 39 manufacturers – have a “weather response plan that is enacted by site management in advance of potentially severe weather conditions. This includes detailed processes and procedures to ensure everything is safe and secure. Regarding potential supply chain disruption, it would be premature to speculate on that.”
She went on to cite comments by an unnamed member company as an example of such weather response plans.
“We have procedures and policies in place that receives routine reviews and are revised as necessary to cover events like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and power outages.
“More specifically, we have a 5 day hurricane preparedness program that is implemented each time a hurricane becomes a threat to our general area. This plan is reviewed each year before the “season” officially starts. Our process equipment is engineered for these types of events.”