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US biopharmaceutical supply chain effective during early days of COVID-19 response

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Chip Davis

ARLINGTON, Va. — A report published by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) Research Foundation and Deloitte Consulting found that during the first 90 days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the biopharmaceutical finished goods industry quickly adapted and adjusted to deliver medicines safely and efficiently to patients, with only minimal disruptions.

As noted in the report, The First 90 Days: US Biopharmaceutical Finished Goods Supply Chain Response to COVID-19, pharmaceutical distributors, manufacturers and other stakeholders in the biopharmaceutical supply chain leveraged their strong relationships and prior emergency response experience to get medicines safely and efficiently to patients. Pharmaceutical distributors closely collaborated with manufacturers and hospitals, pharmacies, providers and other partners to anticipate changes in demand, respond to evolving patient needs and mitigate disruptions.

“This report underscores that even with extraordinary demand for medicines during COVID-19, the pharmaceutical supply chain has been resilient,” said Chester “Chip” Davis, Jr., President and CEO, HDA and the HDA Research Foundation. “Pharmaceutical distributors leveraged their logistics expertise, working with their supply chain partners and all levels of government to direct medicines to the frontlines while continuing to meet the daily healthcare needs of all Americans.”

The First 90 Days: US Biopharmaceutical Finished Goods Supply Chain Response to COVID-19 examines the finished goods biopharmaceutical supply chain’s response to the challenges presented by the pandemic, including handling surges for critical medicines, minimizing supply disruptions, supporting operations while preserving workforce safety and supporting the evolving public health agenda. The evaluation of the industry’s performance in response to these challenges resulted in the following findings:

  • The supply chain was able to balance increased demand through avoidance of single sourcing, supply risk monitoring, communication and data transparency, and proactive inventory management.
  • Distributors promptly set up individual allocation programs to manage inventory of the most in-demand products in an equitable way, which helped contain the shortages initially observed of critical care drugs used to treat COVID-19 patients in ICUs.
  • While drug shortages as measured by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased during the first 90 days, there were few significant disruptions (actual and purported) beyond COVID-19 therapeutics. At least 83 percent of drugs that were reported in shortage to the FDA had a second-line or alternative treatment available.
  • The pharmaceutical supply chain was able to adapt to accommodate changes to the channels through which patients acquired their prescriptions.
  • The biopharmaceutical industry invested substantially in developing capabilities to curb the pandemic’s short- and long-term challenges, including speeding to market coronavirus testing, therapeutics and vaccine candidates, while also supporting the communities it serves through in-kind donations.
  • By leveraging their emergency response capabilities, supply chain stakeholders were able to promptly put in place business continuity plans that preserved the health and safety of frontline employees with minimal disruption to their operations.

Additionally, Deloitte’s social sentiment assessment, which monitored and analyzed consumers’ online comments about perceived supply disruptions shows that consumer sentiment for the biopharmaceutical industry improved during the first 90 days of the pandemic, indicating that consumers had a positive perception of the industry’s performance in managing the early challenges of COVID-19.

“The engagement of the broader supply chain, our collaboration with government and unique expertise minimized early disruptions for patients and laid the foundation for a resilient supply chain over the long term,” said Robert Mauch, PharmD, PhD, EVP and Group President AmerisourceBergen and Chairman, HDA Board of Directors. “The lessons of the first 90 days will be instrumental in the months ahead. As an industry, we are committed to continuing to work with the government on national response efforts, including the distribution of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines as well as preparing for future public health emergencies.”

The report also covers four potential future scenarios that have the potential to materialize in the next 6 to 12 months, including the rise in home delivery of pharmaceuticals, potential legislation that could enhance local sourcing requirements, handling natural disasters during the pandemic, and the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Moreover, the report outlines 16 suggested recommendations to enhance resilience to future disruptions, allowing organizations to manage supply risk, improve end-to-end visibility, and boost supply chain agility while delivering a patient-centric approach and collaborating with the public sector.

The First 90 Days: US Biopharmaceutical Finished Goods Supply Chain Response to COVID-19 was made possible through the support of gold sponsors Cardinal Health, Inc., CuraScript SD, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and PAR Pharmaceutical, an Endo International Company; silver sponsor KeySource; and bronze sponsors Ascend Laboratories, LLC, IQVIA and Upsher-Smith Laboratories, LLC. The report is available as a complimentary download through the HDA website.


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