Across the country, brave, frontline health care professionals are working around the clock as our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. These workers — the true heroes of the pandemic — are treating patients, maintaining vital health care operations and serving as emergency responders.
In this time of crisis, it is also important to remember that behind our hardworking health care providers are logistics experts committed to ensuring the critical medicines and health care products they need to treat patients are accessible each day, 24 hours a day. As military history teaches us, logistics are essential to winning a war, and our fight against COVID-19 is no different.
COVID-19 has taught us that there are many things in our day-to-day lives that we have long taken for granted, but now recognize as vital. One such example is the expectation that our medicines will always reach doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, clinics and even our homes safely and quickly, in every part of the country. While the healthcare supply chain has never been talked about more, for many it remains largely misunderstood.
Few of us marvel that we can usually expect to find the exact medicine we need at our local pharmacy within hours of our doctor writing a prescription — even the vitally important independent pharmacy in small towns across America is tapped into a global supply chain that connects it with the right medicine at the right time.
To maintain that seamless supply chain, pharmaceutical distributors fill millions of orders for more than 180,000 healthcare facilities across the country every day, regardless of the conditions. Managing that supply chain in normal times means anticipating needs before they happen, positioning products geographically to meet demand, and managing inventory for pharmacies so that they have what they need to serve their patients — but not more than they need. In times of crisis, it means coordinating with a host of federal and state agencies to ensure that we are directing resources to where they are critically necessary.
While COVID-19 is unprecedented and presents unique challenges, this is not the first health emergency that America’s pharmaceutical distributors have faced. Distributors are built from the ground up to rise to the challenge during public health crises, and managing through disasters and other emergencies is a core part of our business. Snowstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and tornadoes happen each year, and when they do, distributors are there to ensure vital medicines are safely and efficiently delivered to the affected areas.
To respond to COVID-19, distributors are working around-the-clock to increase medical capacity and enhance our national supply of critical medications and healthcare supplies required to fight this pandemic. As distributors use their supply networks to respond to evolving customer needs, we are working closely with manufacturers, sourcing organizations, industry partners and government agencies to anticipate changes in demand, mitigate disruptions and ensure that healthcare providers everywhere have access to available medicines. Further, distributors look at a range of data points — information from the federal government and states, the unique demands of hotspots or areas of surging intensity and third-party data to meet the escalating inventory needs of providers.
Our members are in the business of finding the safest and most efficient ways to get products to where patients need them the most, working as the conduit between manufacturers and healthcare providers. This is our core expertise, and it is during public health crises that distributors should, more than ever, play a vital role in the emergency response efforts run by federal, state and local entities.
Given the breadth of expertise, strong relationships and insight the pharmaceutical distribution industry holds regarding the existing supply chain, we serve as a critical partner and invaluable resource during these challenging times. Distributors have spent years building connections across the supply chain and maintaining systems to efficiently and effectively deliver medicines. Now is the time to leverage these systems more broadly. HDA and our members are committed to working with the federal government and states to deploy our logistics expertise and relationships in support of their efforts. Collectively, we are united in a mission to support frontline workers as they deliver care to Americans across the country.
This is an extraordinarily challenging time for all Americans — particularly for our healthcare system and the brave individuals on the frontlines. Their commitment represents the best of America. We are grateful and committed to doing our part to support them.
Additional HDA materials and other pandemic response resources are available at www.hda.org/covid19.
Chester “Chip” Davis is the president and CEO of HDA.