No main twister injury to drug manufacturing facility in North Carolina

Damage is seen at a Pfizer pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in this aerial photo after a tornado hit the facility two days earlier, July 21, 2023, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Sean Rayford | Getty Images

Pfizer said Friday there appeared to be no major damage to drug manufacturing areas at its Rocky Mount, North Carolina, plant after a tornado hit the facility two days earlier.

The facility supplies nearly 8% of all sterile injectable drugs used in US hospitals, including anesthesia, analgesics, therapeutics, anti-infectives, and neuromuscular blockers. Pfizer added that the facility makes about 25% of the company’s sterile injectables.

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An initial assessment revealed that, according to Pfizer, the tornado primarily damaged a storage facility in which raw materials, packaging materials and finished medicines were stored that were awaiting quality assurance.

The drugmaker did not say whether it expected this damage to create new drug shortages or exacerbate existing ones – worrying some health experts.

The damage comes as the US is already facing an unprecedented shortage of drugs ranging from ADHD pills to painkillers to injectable cancer therapies. These bottlenecks are due, among other things, to problems with quality control in manufacturing and an increase in demand.

The North Carolina plant is closed while Pfizer and both local and state agencies continue to assess the damage.

The 3,200 Pfizer employees and contractors working at the plant were able to evacuate and reach shelters before the tornado, the company noted.

The drugmaker said it was working to move medicines to nearby locations for storage and to identify sources for replacing damaged raw materials and supplies.

Pfizer, through its own sites and partners, is also exploring alternative manufacturing locations in the United States and internationally.

The company said it is “committed to expeditiously restoring the full functionality of the site, which plays a critical role in the U.S. healthcare system.” It is one of ten Pfizer manufacturing sites in the country.

Pfizer also noted that it works closely with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, and other state, local, and federal officials.

Califf said in a Twitter post Thursday that the FDA is “closely monitoring the situation.”

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