Tornado damage at a Pfizer Inc.
manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount, N.C., is threatening to make critical drug-supply shortages even worse, experts say. The tornado, carrying peak winds of 150 mph, ripped through the Nash County, N.C. area Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, and video aired by local news outlets showed extensive damage at the Pfizer facility. Pfizer confirmed in a statement that the facility was damaged by the tornado and noted that all its employees are safe.
The Pfizer site in Rocky Mount is one of the world’s largest facilities making sterile injectable medicines that are sold to hospitals, and nearly a quarter of Pfizer sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals are made at the site, which covers 250 acres and has more than 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing space, according to the company’s website. The damage to such a large facility focused on sterile injectables raised alarms among drug-supply experts because many of these key medicines in everyday use at hospitals were already in short supply. Products made at the Pfizer facility include anesthesia, therapeutics, drugs for treating infections and neuromuscular blockers that can be used in surgeries and mechanical ventilation of patients. About 43% of the new drug shortages this year are injectable medicines, according to data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service. “The most common group of drugs to have shortages are sterile injectables,” in part because there are only a few manufacturers in the market for these largely generic and generally not very profitable products, said Stephen Schondelmeyer, co-principal investigator of the Resilient Drug Supply Project at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. A recent Pfizer injectables product availability report shows that 47% of the more than 500 …