As I gulped down a couple of Tylenol tablets while writing this article on security at pharmaceutical facilities in Puerto Rico, I remembered that the pills were, coincidentally, made at the very location I was describing. Before researching this topic, I would not have known that all of Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol tablets are manufactured in the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an archipelago located east of the Dominican Republic, 1,000 miles southeast of Miami.
Chances are good that you too have swallowed, inserted, or injected medicine that has originated in Puerto Rico, because 16 of the top 20 best-selling drugs in the United States are made in Puerto Rico, according to the government-run Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company and the private Pharmaceutical Industry Association of Puerto Rico. Many other countries around the world import drugs from the commonwealth as well. Eight drugs other than Tylenol are manufactured exclusively there.
More than 60 pharmaceutical plants dot the 3,500 square miles of Puerto Rico’s main island, ranging from Mayaguez on the western tip to Fajardo on the east coast. All of the U.S.-based heavyweights are there, along with some European counterparts: Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Amgen, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Labs, Wyeth, Schering-Plough, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline. They churn out powerhouse drugs such as the cholesterol-lowering medications Lipitor (Pfizer) and Zocor (Merck), the antibiotic Zithromax (Pfizer), and the antipsychotic Zyprexa (Eli Lilly). Despite being fierce competitors at the drugstore, these companies collaborate closely on their security.
The following is a look at how these companies are battling one of their top concerns, terrorism, and how they are preparing for the worst through emergency planning.