As Florence approaches, Pfizer pauses operations at North Carolina plant

As Hurricane Florence approaches the shores of the U.S. East Coast, Pfizer plans to temporarily suspend operations at its Hospira sterile injectables manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

The shutdown, first reported by Bloomberg, will take effect on Thursday, with the hurricane's landfall expected Thursday evening or Friday morning. Florence was labeled a Category 4 storm as of Wednesday morning, indicating sustained winds of 130-156 miles per hour and "catastrophic damage" anywhere it passes through.

"Only essential emergency, utility, and monitoring personnel will be onsite during the storm," confirmed Steven Danehy, direct of media relations for Pfizer's global essential pharmaceuticals, in a statement to BioPharma Dive.

Dive Insight:

Hurricanes wreak havoc on buildings, businesses and lives, and the impact on supply chains can go on for a significant time. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, and the Food and Drug Administration is still dealing with drug shortages resulting from the impact of the storm on a number of manufacturing plants on the island.

Pfizer has taken the precaution to protect both the safety of staff and its ability to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines to patients, according to Danehy.

"We are monitoring the situation, and as of now we plan to suspend operations on Thursday at both of our facilities in North Carolina," he wrote in an emailed statement. "Pfizer has contingency plans in place to ensure the continuity of supply, and mitigate interruptions during natural disasters."

More broadly, Pfizer is still working through production delays for injectable opioid analgesics, following changes, upgrades and manufacturing quality issues at its facility in Kansas. Delays there are expected to continue until 2019.

Novo Nordisk also has sizable manufacturing operations in the Carolinas region, with a plant in Clayton, North Carolina. Ken Inchausti, director of corporate communications at the Danish drugmaker, wrote in an emailed statement that the company is "monitoring the situation closely."

"For our finished products plant, we have plans in place to ensure continued operation of our critical production areas as long as it is safe to do so," he added. "We also have new construction underway there for a new facility, and that site will close starting [Wednesday] at 3 pm and through Thursday and Friday."

Sept. 12, 2018

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