The tornado occurred on Wednesday of last week, and the pharmaceutical company has spent the interim period assessing the damage and the potential impact on its inventory of medicine.
The Rocky Mount, North Carolina site is one of the largest sterile injectable facilities in the world. It produces 25% of Pfizer’s total output of sterile injectables in the US, which in turns works out at nearly 8% of all sterile injectables used in US hospitals. In total, the facility produces more than 200 million units of treatments per year.
In an update posted by Pfizer a few days after the tornado hit, the company confirmed that all of the workers at the facility were safe, with the site employing 3,200 individuals. Additionally, the company noted that the damage done to the facility was predominantly concentrated on the warehouse portion of the manufacturing facility.
As a result, Pfizer stated that crews were working ‘around-the-clock’ to restore power, assess the structural integrity of the building, and to move finished medicines to nearby sites for storage. For the moment, the site is closed while the full extent of the damage is assessed.
In further details on the nature of the damaged facilities, the company stated that the warehouse facility stores raw materials, packaging supplies, and finished medicines awaiting release by quality assurance. Pfizer plans to identify sources to replace damaged raw materials and supplies.
The company stated that an initial assessment indicated that there had not been any major damage to the medicine production areas.
In an update to hospitals sent the same day, Pfizer warned hospitals that more than 30 products had less than three months of inventory in the company’s distribution chain, CNN reported. The products that are part of this list include epinephrine, fentanyl, and lidocaine.
Some of the products included on the list are also part of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s drug shortages list.
For its part, the FDA announced that it had initiated mitigation steps to try to maintain supply of the impacted treatments. The actions it had taken included looking for additional sources for the medications and asking other manufacturers of the same products to prepare to ramp up production, if needed.
The FDA noted that 10 products manufactured at the plant are the sole source for the US market, but added that there should be substitute formulations available, or that there would be sufficient supply in Pfizer’s other warehouses for ‘many weeks’.
After the event, Pfizer stated that it had made a donation to the American Red Cross North Carolina Chapter and United Way Tar River Region to support the relief and recovery efforts in the area.