PhRMA locks down D.C. headquarters after contact with COVID-19 patient

Coronavirus
PhRMA will close its Washington, D.C., office through the rest of the week. (Getty)

As drugmakers clamp down on employee travel and communal workspaces in response to the growing coronavirus epidemic, one of the industry's most influential lobbying groups is sending employees home after contact with an infected individual. 

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) will close its Washington, D.C., headquarters for the rest of the week after a visitor tested positive for COVID-19.

The infected individual attended a meeting at the building March 5, the group said in a statement. 

The headquarters will undergo a deep cleaning, and employees who interacted with the visitor have been asked to self-quarantine until March 20, a spokesman said. 

PhRMA declined to identify the visitor but specified that it wasn't an employee. The group also declined to say whether employees who are now self-quarantined later interacted with lawmakers or congressional staff. 

The shutdown at PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's top trade group representing most of its largest firms, comes as a management meeting for one of its member companies, Biogen, has been linked to dozens of COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: With meeting case count rising, Biogen tells attendees to prep for quarantine, isolate from loved ones

As of Monday, more than 40 individuals connected to a Biogen meeting in late February in Boston have tested positive for the virus, including 32 in Massachusetts alone, according to the Massachusetts Department of Health. 

Biogen on Sunday instructed meeting attendees that they would be contacted by authorities for testing and required them to self-quarantine. They were told to avoid contact with family, loved ones or roommates for the time being. 

Employees and contractors at the drugmaker's facilities in Massachusetts; Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; and Baar, Switzerland, were instructed to work from home “until further notice.”

A Biogen spokeswoman called the decisions "a difficult situation for our colleagues and their loved ones.” 

RELATED: Big Pharma grounds employees: GSK, Bristol, Roche, Sanofi and more limit travel due to coronavirus

Meanwhile, a suite of other PhRMA members are also taking steps to limit employee travel and communal work. 

Takeda, which has 5,000 employees in Massachusetts, instructed most of its staff in the state on Monday to work from home as well. Those who can’t, such as lab scientists, are encouraged to keep distance between one another and limit meetings to less than 10 people.  

Amgen is suspending international business travel and medical conference attendance until April 17. GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Roche, Bristol Myers Squibb, Mylan and others are taking their own steps—including limiting travel and instituting work-from-home policies—to prevent the spread of infections. 

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