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Pfizer, Novartis, MSD, Novo and GSK halt operations in wake of Hurricane Florence

Published on 14/09/18 at 11:33am
Image Credit: NASA

As Hurricane Florence begins to breach the Southeast Coast, major pharma firms have announced they are enacting contingency plans, including  shutting down operations at their manufacturing sites across North Carolina and the relocation of drug products in affected areas.

The coming storm, which is set to hit both North and South Carolina as well as Virginia, has been downgraded to a Category 1 from an expected 3 or 4 at landfall, but is still expected to cause enough rainfall to lead to “catastrophic flooding” across the region, with an average forecasted rainfall of over 20 inches, and up to 30 inches in isolated areas, and with winds greater than 100 miles per hour.

Pfizer could be badly hit, as the company has three sites in the affected region: a gene therapy manufacturing facility in Sanford, North Carolina, a laboratory in Richmond, Virginia, and a manufacturing plant in Rocky Mount, operated by its sterile injectables subsidiary Hospira. However, the company has idled all operations in the affected areas, setting out to reassure patients and professionals that the impact would be managed, with spokesman Steven Danehy telling Bloomberg: “Pfizer has contingency plans in place to ensure the continuity of supply, and mitigate interruptions during natural disasters.”

Novartis has closed a plant in Wilson, North Carolina – a site that is set to be picked up by Aurobindo as part of a $1 million deal signed just a week before – with plans to resume production the following Monday. The firm has also relocated some of its product stock in order to minimise disruption of supply to patients, as well as communicated safety preparations and plans to around 2,700 of its staff and contractors

The storm comes at a particularly bad time for Novo Nordisk, which is currently in the middle of building a 833,000 square-foot active pharmaceutical ingredient plant in Clayton, North Carolina, where it also has a finished products plant as well, measuring 457,000 square feet. Operations have been shut down and the construction site has been closed.

MSD also has a number of sites across the affected areas, with operations in North Carolina being placed on hold at its manufacturing plant in Durham and corporate offices in Charlotte, as well as at a vaccine site in Elkton, Virginia.

GSK also shuttered its inhaler plant in Zubulon, North Carolina. It predicted that operations will not resume until Sunday this week, but supply of medicines to patients should not be affected.

Matt Fellows

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