Pfizer, Sanofi, Novartis and Merck plants open during pandemic

Biopharmaceutical manufacturing is weathering COVID-19 relatively unscathed thanks to multi-sourcing strategies and newly available transport capacity.

The coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures used to slow the spread of the virus have seen biopharmaceutical companies suspend trials and revise financial forecasts.

Manufacturing, in contrast, appears to have suffered less impact judging by recent comments by leading manufacturers.

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For example, last week Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told analysts the firms manufacturing sites and related distribution channels operational are operating “without significant supply disruptions.”

This was echoed by CFO Frank D’Amelio who said, “All 49 of our manufacturing facilities remain operational, and we have not seen a significant disruption in our supply chain as a result of the pandemic.”

Sanofi has also kept all of its manufacturing sites open according to CEO Paul Hudson. He told analysts on April 24 that “we’ve mobilized our unique strengths and kept 100% of our sites operational and our global sourcing in order to avoid any product shortage.”

The majority of Merck & Co’s manufacturing plants and clinical supply sites remain fully operational according to CEO Ken Frazier.

On April 28 he said “we have seen little impact to the production, supply, or distribution of our medicines, vaccines, and Animal Health products.”

Swiss drug firm Novartis also said it had put in place robust plan across suppliers and operations to ensure there’s no disruption in its ability to deliver medicines.

Analyst take

The positive view is shared by Geoffrey Porges from MBBS / SVB Leerink Research who said he is confident production and supply of pharmaceutical will continue as normal throughout the pandemic.

“We have not seen any material disruptions in manufacturing for these large-cap pharma companies. Most of these companies have suggested they are equipped with multi-sourcing capabilities, sufficient material inventories, and functional factories and plants that continue to operate at or near normal levels,” Porges wrote in a note.

He cited Pfizer as an example, writing “Pfizer in particular mentioned that they are using newly available commercial air capacity to transport inventory to mitigate drug distribution issues.

“Overall, these companies believe the medicine and vaccine supply will remain at normal levels during the COVID pandemic.”