By Alex Keown
Although Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Category 2, the massive storm has the potential to dump enough rain to produce catastrophic flooding across the Carolinas. Despite the downgrade, Pfizer is taking no chances and will close its North Carolina injectables plant ahead of the storm.
The damaging winds and floods of a hurricane can disrupt life for those affected by the storm. Those disruptions also impact businesses. When Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico last fall, Medtronic was forced to shut down four manufacturing facilities on the island.
This morning Bloomberg reported that Pfizer will halt operations at its injectables facility in Rocky Mount, an eastern North Carolina town that was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1998. The Rocky Mount site is a key source of medications used by hospitals and is a lynchpin in the injectables business. That particular facility, Bloomberg said, has been under pressure to generate medications to alleviate drug shortages in the United States.
A Pfizer spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company “has contingency plans in place to ensure the continuity of supply, and mitigate interruptions during natural disasters.”
Pfizer also intends to temporarily close down operations at its gene therapy facility in Sanford, which is father west than Rocky Mount, according to in-Pharmatechnologist.
A Pfizer spokesperson noted that only essential personnel will be onsite during the storms.
Pfizer isn’t the only pharmaceutical company that has facilities in eastern North Carolina. Germany-based Fresenius Kabi, part of Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA, has a facility in Wilson, N.C., a neighboring city of Rocky Mount. Contract and specialty pharmaceutical manufacturer Mayne Pharma has a facility in Greenville, N.C., which is about an hour farther east. Both Wilson and Greenville have experienced significant flooding in previous hurricanes. It is unclear at this time if those facilities have made a decision to temporarily close ahead of Florence’s landfall, which is expected sometime within the next 18 hours.
Merck and Novartis have confirmed they intend to halt North Carolina operations during the storm. Merck, according to in-Pharmatechnologist, intends to close down operations at all its North Carolina and Virginia facilities ahead of Hurricane Florence. A spokesperson told in-Pharmatechnologist that it is adjusting shipments in order to preserve the continuity of business.
Like Fresenius, Novartis has a large presence in Wilson. The Swiss company closed that facility Wednesday night and expects it to remain closed through Sunday, in-Pharmatechnologist reported. The company noted that it has shifted some products out of the area ahead of the storm in order to preserve the supply lines.
In the central part of North Carolina, there is a significant presence of pharma, biotech and contract manufacturing organizations. It is unclear at this time if the facilities in the Research Triangle Park area have made decisions to temporarily close during the storm.