A río revuelto...
In the wake of the earthquake in Japan and subsequent threat of a nuclear emergency, pharmaceutical companies are reporting a shortage of drugs designed to counter the effects of radiation due to increased demand from potential buyers in both Asia and the US.
Anbex sold out of its Lostat potassium iodide tablets and isn't expected to get new supplies until April 18, while Fleming Pharmaceuticals co-owner Deborah Fleming Wurdack indicated that it would soon run out of its liquid ThyroShield therapy and said it was unclear when the company could manufacture more. In addition, Sweden-based Recipharm said it only makes its radiation drug based on orders and has no stock on hand. Fleming president Phil Drisas noted that in light of the heightened demand, which has been driven in part by some US groups looking to replace now expired drugs in their stockpile, the US government should consider tapping into the Strategic National Stockpile to provide supplies to Japan. In doing so, it would allow the companies to work towards filling new orders.
Commenting on the broader implications of the disaster on the pharmaceutical industry, Leerink Swann analyst Seamus Fernandez said US and European drugmakers could face some short-term economic disruption but it should "be muted relative to other industries." He noted that most of the larger pharmaceutical companies get about 7 percent to 8 percent of their sales and between 9 percent and 10 percent of their earnings per share from Japan. Fernandez said that Bristol-Myers Squibb would be the least exposed, with 3 percent of sales coming from the country, while Novartis has the most exposure with 10.9 percent of its pharmaceutical sales and 8 percent of its total revenue from Japan.
Meanwhile, Tokyo-based Astellas on Tuesday provided an update on the impact of the earthquake, reporting that all employees are confirmed safe, but that operations at manufacturing facilities at Nishine and Takahagi, and research facilities in Takahagi and Miyukigaoka have been temporarily halted. Efforts necessary to resume operations are underway at several of these sites, the drugmaker said. Astellas remarked that it is unclear how the earthquake will impact the company's earnings, but said it will disclose pertinent information should it be determined that the company's finances will be "significantly impacted."