Washington, DC - "As the citizens of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands begin the long recovery effort from the devastation brought by Hurricane Maria, I know I’m joined by all of my colleagues at the Food and Drug Administration in keeping the residents of all these islands in our thoughts. I also want to extend my thanks to the FDA staff in our San Juan office who worked hard to prepare and secure our facilities ahead of the storm.
"There are many challenges ahead, but much of the hurricane response over the next few days will rightly focus on life-saving measures. The agency stands ready to support the federal government’s overall response in whatever way we can—be it providing support through our U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers, or FDA’s civilians who have volunteered to support the efforts led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Over the past few weeks, hundreds of dedicated FDA experts have also been working closely with the agency’s leadership to ensure a timely and impactful response on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We stand ready to provide that same assistance to communities impacted by Hurricane Maria. Initial assessments indicate that it may be months before all of Puerto Rico has power restored, compromising the critical infrastructure of the island. As the relief effort moves into recovery, we are committed to working closely with local and federal partners, as well as the food and medical product industries, to address the immediate and long-term consequences of the storm.
"Like many federal agencies, the FDA has an important role to play by ensuring the safety of, among other things, medical products, blood, and the food supply—all of which have the potential to be destroyed or become contaminated by flood waters, further jeopardizing the health and safety of Americans.
"Our efforts are multifaceted. Since the onset of the storms—beginning with Harvey—the agency has been working to provide recommendations and communicate about how to handle food and medical products that may have been impacted by the storms. This information is important to the people who use them as well as the industry that produces them, and is aimed at avoiding unnecessary illnesses, avoiding wasting good medicines, preventing drug and food shortages, and addressing crop losses.
"These storms have hit hard in areas where there are a significant number of farmers, food distributors, and medical product manufacturers, including Houston, Florida, and now Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The agency has been working to identify the firms in the path of these storms and coordinate with them to assess the impact on their facilities to avoid—where possible—shortages of critical medical products and food. In fact, we identified and have begun outreach to approximately 10,000 firms potentially impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Thankfully, to date no critical shortages have been identified in areas impacted by Harvey and Irma. The FDA is currently working closely with pharmaceutical and device companies with manufacturing sites in Puerto Rico to prevent shortages of medically necessary drugs and devices.
"Another critical area is ensuring access to safe blood in the face of so many storm-related injuries. Since the storms’ onset, my colleagues have been working closely with the AABB Interorganizational Task Force to help ensure that not only are needs being met, but that we maintain the same level of blood safety as we do when we are not amidst three natural disasters. Thanks to the continued donations, blood banks have successfully met the needs across all impacted regions in the continental U.S. to date, and this important group will continue to monitor the needs in the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"I deeply appreciate the work of all FDA staff responding to these disasters, including the approximately 350 FDA staff who have deployed or are ready to deploy as part of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and those who put in many additional hours in support of FDA’s response in addition to other mission-critical work at the agency. I am proud of their work and dedication to helping ensure that we are doing as much as possible to help our fellow Americans. I was incredibly moved by the more than 150 FDA civilian staff who responded to FEMA’s request for volunteers. My staff and I are fully committed in our support of the nation’s efforts to recover and rebuild over the months that follow." ~ FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.