San Juan, Puerto Rico – As damage assessments and utility restorations continue in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, the island may now face the possibility of disruptions to many exports of prescription drugs and medical technologies to the United States, according to a leading industry analyst forecasting operations for energy, agriculture and supply chain logistics.
According to Everstream Analytics, approximately 10% of the US drug supply was manufactured in Puerto Rico in 2017, including products like cholesterol drug Lipitor, blood thinner Xarelto, pain medication Nucynta ER and the nerve pain medication Gralise. The US territory serves as a primary hub for companies such as Viatris, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, and Johnson & Johnson.
“While there are currently no reports from these companies indicating product disruption, flooding could adversely affect their day-to-day operations due to impassable roads or traffic diversions,” Everstream’s Chief Meteorologist said. Analytics, Jon Davis.
A Pfizer global media relations manager told FOX Weather that the company has transferred all of its manufacturing sites in Puerto Rico to Viatris, and it’s still too early to understand the full impact on other manufacturers and what the wider implications might be, if any. .
Johnson & Johnson said operations were restored after Fiona at all of their locations in Puerto Rico.
Local officials called the flooding historic after dropping more than 20 inches of rain across US territory. Fiona sent 1.5 million people into darkness, of which approximately 300,000 are now restored. Thousands of people are still left without running water.
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However, with power outages on the islands, Davis said pharmaceutical companies that aren’t well-equipped will likely continue to face business disruptions. And any disruption in distribution and production will have implications for the United States and around the world.
Additionally, almost all (99%) all pacemakers in the world are manufactured in Puerto Rico. And more than half of the world’s 10 top-selling prescription drugs are made in Puerto Rico, including Lyrica for epilepsy and Humira and Enbrel to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
“The overall decline in the production of drugs, devices and pharmaceutical items will be felt in the short to medium term,” Davis said.
Depending on the severity of the flooding, manufacturing disruptions could take months to recover, Davis said.
Hurricanes in Puerto Rico have already caused drug shortages
Fiona made landfall twice as a Category 1 hurricane, the first Sunday afternoon along the extreme southwest coast of Puerto Rico and the second early Monday morning in the eastern Dominican Republic.
Fiona hit Puerto Rico near the island’s fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the third costliest hurricane to hit the United States – it also claimed the lives of 2,975 Puerto Ricans.
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After Maria landed on September 18, 2017, the United States faced drug shortages, particularly intravenous fluid bag shortages, which lasted four to five months.
The bags are used to mix and administer liquid medication or salt/salt water to patients via an intravenous line.
According to Everstream Analytics, medical technology company Baxter Healthcare accounted for 43% of the U.S. IV solutions market in 2017 and produced the majority of supply in Puerto Rico. The company has several factories in Puerto Rico.
Overall, IV bags were in short supply until at least February 2018, as most production was halted for weeks in Puerto Rico and only gradually normalized over the following months.
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Maria was a Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall in Yabucoa with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. Fiona was a category 1 with winds of 85 mph.
Fiona will continue to strengthen through Wednesday evening and is expected to remain a strong Category 4 hurricane through Friday as it moves north or north-northeast.
According to FOX Forecast CenterHurricane Fiona could approach Bermuda from Thursday evening to Friday morning, although the center of the hurricane is expected to remain west of the archipelago.
FOX Weather has contacted Viatris and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company for comment and has not heard back.