Huuricane Maria directly impacted 13 Caribbean islands it is path of catastrophic destruction. One of the initial industry supply chain impacts concerning Maria was in the nation of Puerto Rico and  concerns the pharmaceutical and drug industry.

Baxter International has communicated to impacted customers that “multiple production delays” are delaying its ability to restore supply of two medicines that were already characterized as in a constrained supply condition.  The products are the intravenous fluids dextrose and sodium chloride, user to treat hospital patients. The drug manufacturer indicated that it is still assessing hurricane-related damage to its production facilities in Puerto Rico. According to Baxter, these medicines produced on the island are in smaller containers that are primarily mixed with other medicines at healthcare facilities. Baxter further indicated that it took steps to mitigate a disruption to supply by transporting finished product off Puerto Rico in advance of the hurricane.

Obviously, with current reports of widescale infrastructure, flooding and physical destruction on the island, many drug companies are still in the process of evaluation and mitigation of supply disruption. Some drugs for treating the effects of cancer are produced on the island.

According to reports, the constrained supply situations has special meaning since the U.S. Justice Department antitrust division had launched an investigation regarding shortages of certain IV medicines including sodium chloride, along with the selling and pricing of such products. Such drugs were already planned on customer allocation rules. In a communication to customers on September 23, Baxter stated: “Until our inventory assessments are completed, we will not be able to approve any requests for increase, exception or new allocation.

A published report by The Wall Street Journal, reports that Bristol-Myers Squibb has indicated its plant in Hamacao appeared to suffer some damage but a second plant in Manati was not damaged.

Pfizer indicated that a preliminary assessment determined that two of that firm’s three production facilities had minimal damage. The third had what was described as “minimal to moderate damage to parts of the facility.” Pfizer indicated that the company had a healthy inventory supply of finished products and did not foresee a risk to patient supply at that time.

Once again, we remind readers that in past incidents of severe natural disaster, preliminary assessments were later modified when teams had the opportunity to perform very detailed inspections of production equipment. With Puerto Rico still reeling from complete destruction of the country’s electrical power grid, a physical supply chain infrastructure described as crisis mode, and with citizens still in need of basic life-sustaining food and water, it may well take several more days before complete production and distribution assessments can be completed and fully evaluated.

In the meantime, healthcare providers and drug procurement teams need to maintain constant communication with drug distributors and manufacturers as to ongoing expected shortages.


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