Correction to Puerto Rico Saline Shipments Story

By Peter Loftus and Jonathan D. Rockoff Features Dow Jones Newswires

Drug and hospital-product manufacturer Baxter International Inc. says it has lost "multiple production days" in hurricane-wracked Puerto Rico that will delay its ability to restore shipments of two products that were already in short supply on the U.S. mainland.

Continue Reading Below

The products -- dextrose and sodium chloride, also known as saline -- are intravenous fluids given to hospital patients. The company disclosed the delays in a Sept. 22 letter to U.S. hospitals and other customers, saying Baxter was still assessing hurricane-related damage to its facilities.

U.S. hospitals already have been grappling with shortages of the drugs due to manufacturing problems and other issues unrelated to the hurricanes.

In May, Baxter said the Justice Department's antitrust division was investigating shortages of IV solutions including saline, as well as manufacturing, selling and pricing of the products. Baxter said at the time it was cooperating with the investigation, and that it responsibly priced the products and was making efforts to help ensure the continuity of supply.

Baxter said in an emailed statement it took steps to mitigate a potential supply disruption by moving finished products off the island in advance of the hurricanes. The company said the product-allocation plan is designed to ensure equitable product distribution to customers.

Baxter said all of its sites sustained some damage, and repairs are underway. Baxter hopes to resume limited production "in the next few days."

Continue Reading Below

Puerto Rico is home to many pharmaceutical factories that supply the U.S. and other markets.

Several big drugmakers have said their facilities weathered hurricanes Irma and Maria without much trouble.

On Monday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency was taking steps to mitigate the possibility of hurricane-related drug shortages, including working with companies to ensure products are shipped. "We may soon face critical shortages if we don't find a path for removal or ways to get production back up and running," said Dr. Gottlieb.

In a separate letter on Sept. 23, Baxter told customers it would conserve the supply of many products made in Puerto Rico, including IV solution bags, by allocating fixed amounts to U.S. hospital customers based on customers' average monthly purchases between March and August.

"Until our inventory assessments are completed, we will not be able to approve any requests for increase, exception or new allocation," Baxter said in the letter. "We regret this disruption to your daily operations and appreciate your patience as we re-establish our supply pipeline."

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said its plant in Humacao appeared to suffer some damage during the hurricane, but a second plant, in Manati, wasn't harmed. The Humacao plant makes the bloodthinner Eliquis as well as some older drugs. "Based on the contingency plans we have executed we believe we have mitigated the risk to product supply regardless of that damage," a company spokesman said.

Pfizer Inc. said a preliminary assessment indicated that two of the company's three manufacturing plants had minimal damage, while a third had "minimal to moderate damage to parts of the facility." A spokesman said the company was trying to repair the damage as quickly as possible. "We have healthy supply of finished goods available for patients and do not see a risk to patient supply at this point," the spokesman said.

Write to Peter Loftus at peter.loftus@wsj.com and Jonathan D. Rockoff at Jonathan.Rockoff@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

This item was corrected at 5:26 p.m. ET to show that Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said its second plant in Manati wasn't harmed. The original incorrectly stated the second plant was in Guaynabo.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said its plant in Humacao appeared to suffer some damage during the hurricane, but a second plant, in Manati, wasn't harmed. "Baxter Says Saline Shipments Disrupted in Hurricane-Wracked Puerto Rico," published at 5:03 p.m. ET, incorrectly stated the second plant was in Guaynabo in the 12th paragraph.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 27, 2017 17:41 ET (21:41 GMT)