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The true fallout of intense weather unpredictabilities is coming into sharper focus. A recent tornado that touched down on a Pfizer facility in North Carolina has the potential to send the fragile pipeline of sterile injectable medicines into disarray, forcing hospitals and other drug manufacturers to employ workaround strategies to ensure access.
Although Pfizer has stated that it is still working to assess the full extent of the damage to the complex, which produces nearly 8% of sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals, the company is actively in motion, transferring intact medicines to nearby storage sites, identifying sources to replace supplies, and exploring alternative manufacturing locations.
The storm’s impact is expected to be particularly severe due to the fact that sterile injectables are a low-profit item, making it unlikely that other companies can meet the increased demand. Furthermore, even if there is capacity, companies may have to apply for approval from authorities such as the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration before they can enter the marketplace.
Hospitals have also grown accustomed to frequent shortages of sterile injectables, which have become pervasive and severe over the years. To combat them, hospitals may consider alternatives as a short-term solution while policy makers come up with ways of protecting the drug pipeline, such as diversifying manufacturing and providing funds for health systems to maintain buffer supplies.
Federal agencies must also more effectively coordinate their response to further shortages, ensuring clarity in terms of who is leading the response and where the necessary information should be found.
In conclusion, the effects of the tornado that touched down on the Pfizer facility can be felt for some time, as other manufacturers struggle to establish an unprecedented increase in demand through what is a very fragile pipeline of sterile injectables