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FDA Announces Tornado Impact on Pfizer Facility Unlikely to Cause Significant Drug Supply Disruptions

by Sophia Chen
6 comments
Pfizer plant tornado damage

A Pfizer pharmaceutical factory in eastern North Carolina was hit by a tornado last Wednesday, resulting in substantial damage to its storage facility. However, according to a company statement on Friday, the medicine production areas were largely spared.

The capacity of the pharmaceutical company to recover production equipment and essential resources may alleviate the anticipated serious hit to an already burdened system, as the U.S. copes with ongoing drug shortages.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf stated on Friday, “Immediate significant impacts on the supply chain are not anticipated since the products are currently held in hospitals and within the distribution system.”

An EF3 tornado swept across the area near Rocky Mount last Wednesday, removing the roof of a Pfizer plant, which manufactures nearly a quarter of all sterile injectable medications used in U.S. hospitals, as stated by the pharmaceutical company.

Pfizer confirmed on Friday that the primary damage at its 1.4 million square foot factory was sustained by a warehouse that stores raw materials, packaging supplies, and completed medicines awaiting distribution. The company’s preliminary inspection indicated no significant damage to the medicine manufacturing sections, and all 3,200 local employees have been accounted for and are safe.

Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said the staff is expediting the relocation of products to alternative storage facilities and identifying sources to promptly replace raw materials lost due to the storm. The pharmaceutical company is also considering other manufacturing sites within its U.S. network to compensate for production shortfalls while the North Carolina facility undergoes repair.

According to Califf, the FDA’s initial examination revealed fewer than 10 drugs for which Pfizer’s North Carolina plant is the exclusive supplier in the U.S. market.

The Rocky Mount plant is responsible for manufacturing anesthesia and various other essential drugs for surgical procedures, but does not produce or store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine or Comirnaty and Paxlovid treatments. The facility alone contributes nearly 8% of all sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals, as per Pfizer’s website.

Califf confirmed that the FDA is set to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the potentially affected products and the existing domestic supply of those medications. He also assured that a considerable supply of the damaged drugs should be accessible in other Pfizer warehouses.


Hannah Schoenbaum is a participating journalist in the Big Big News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit organization that positions journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported topics.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pfizer plant tornado damage

What parts of the Pfizer plant were most affected by the tornado?

The tornado mainly affected the storage facility of the Pfizer plant in North Carolina, which housed raw materials, packaging supplies, and completed medicines awaiting distribution.

What was the impact on the medicine production areas of the Pfizer plant?

According to Pfizer, the medicine production areas were largely unaffected by the tornado.

How will this incident affect the drug supply in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that they do not expect immediate significant impacts on the drug supply since products are already distributed in hospitals and within the distribution system.

What steps is Pfizer taking following the tornado damage?

Pfizer is rushing products to alternative storage facilities, identifying sources to replace lost raw materials, and considering other manufacturing sites within its U.S. network to compensate for production shortfalls.

Does the damaged plant produce the COVID-19 vaccine?

No, the plant does not produce or store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine or the Comirnaty and Paxlovid treatments.

Were any employees harmed during the tornado?

No, all 3,200 local employees of the Pfizer plant have been accounted for and are safe.

More about Pfizer plant tornado damage

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6 comments

PharmGuy83 July 22, 2023 - 4:14 am

As someone working in pharma, let me tell ya, this could’ve been a disaster. Good thing it was the storage area not production. Though, storage is important too.

Reply
SammyJ July 22, 2023 - 5:58 am

Wow, nature really can throw a curveball, can’t it? Hope they manage to get back up and running soon.

Reply
SueEllen July 22, 2023 - 8:48 am

Thank god they don’t make the COVID vaccine there, can you imagine the chaos.

Reply
Jim Robertson July 22, 2023 - 10:18 am

just glad that everyone’s safe after the storm! you can replace buildings and equipment but not lives, hope everything’s back to normal soon

Reply
Geoff R. July 22, 2023 - 6:37 pm

i didn’t know pfizer had such a big plant in NC. you learn something new everyday.

Reply
Laura_M July 22, 2023 - 10:38 pm

phew! Had me worried for a bit there. My hospital relies heavily on these meds. Keep up the good work, Pfizer!

Reply

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