Pfizer's massive North Carolina plant heavily damaged by tornado, prompting new US drug supply fears

One of the world’s largest sterile injectables plants has landed in the path of a devastating act of nature. 

Wednesday, Pfizer said its manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, suffered damage from a tornado. Pfizer is assessing the situation to determine any potential tolls on production, the company said on Twitter.

Pfizer confirmed that all its Rocky Mount employees evacuated the facility and were safe and accounted for. 

The Rocky Mount plant employs about 4,500 staffers and produces around a quarter of all sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals, according to the drugmaker’s website. The plant houses 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing space and is "one of the largest sterile injectable facilities in the world," Pfizer says. 

The damage at the plant will likely cause "long-term shortages," University of Utah Health senior pharmacy director Erin Fox told The Associated Press. An image from ABC affiliate WTVD, posted by Reuters, shows severe damage to the structure's roof.

Pfizer acquired the plant in its 2015 buyout of Hospira worth $17 billion.

The tornado traveled some 16.5 miles on the ground, lasting for about 30 minutes with wind speeds up to 150 miles per hour, CNN reported, citing the National Weather Service. 

News of the devastation at Pfizer’s plant proved to be a bittersweet boon for the company’s sterile injectables rival Hikma, Reuters reported.

Thursday, Hikma shares rose as much as 9.4% in the biggest single-day increase since September. Behind Pfizer, Hikma is the second largest supplier of injectables to the U.S. market, analysts have pointed out. Shares of Germany’s Fresenius—another major injectables supplier in the states—climbed 6.1%.

While resilient buildings, pharma manufacturing plants sometimes come under the devastating forces of Mother Nature. In 2017, Hurricane Maria briefly idled much of the industry's production sites in Puerto Rico as companies evaluated the toll from the storm.