COVID-19 is not the only complicating factor impacting supply chains. Weather, international conflicts, materials scarcity, and other challenges are threatening to disrupt pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and clinical trial supply chains as well.
Jerry Gross, CEO and co-founder of health technology provider Vytal, spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about the issues of concern to the drug supply chain, and what stakeholders should know about the obstacles (and potential solutions).
OSP: Could you please share the kinds of challenges the pharma supply chain faced before the arrival of COVID-19?
JG: The pharma supply chain faced its own set of unique challenges prior to COVID-19. These include supply chain visibility, inventory management, temperature control, cold-chain shipping, and human resource dependency.
OSP: How did the pandemic impact the supply chain right after the virus hit, and as the pandemic has progressed?
JG: The pandemic created an increase in demand for pharmacy delivery, as more and more patients wanted to receive prescriptions directly at home to avoid a potentially risky trip to the pharmacy. This made it critical for supply chains to experience minimal disruption so that medications were delivered safely and efficiently.
That was easier said than done. Supply chains across all industries experienced hiccups; however, the pharma industry may have seen one of the biggest hits with the limited availability of materials, limited access points, and delays and challenges that stressed the supply chain severely.
OSP: Have any drugs, or category of drugs, been more notably impacted than others?
JG: There have been impacts to some drugs due to certain emergency use authorizations from the FDA. One example is Actemra [rheumatoid arthritis treatment]; however, the impacts have stabilized more recently.
Another impact was the supply of sterile water for injection, which was again due to its usage with COVID vaccines. In all situations, we’ve been able to effectively manage these impacts to ensure we’re still safely and accurately delivering medication to patients.
OSP: Please share some of the changes your company has made to scale operations and help avoid some of the obstacles the pandemic has created.
JG: We had to scale our operations to meet the increased demand for pharmacy delivery. In order to do so, we hired 118 more people, doubled our warehouse space within UPS, and upgraded our technological capabilities. This enabled us to increase our delivery speed and provided manufacturers with a valuable option to reach patients at home.
OSP: Can you share the benefits you’ve realized as a result of the supply-chain-related problems?
JG: The main benefit we’ve realized as a company is that we’re one of the only companies to offer solutions that are front-end agnostic and carrier agnostic; meaning we’re able to work with any manufacturer or medical device company. We do everything from PAP, Bridge, Trials/Fast Start, direct-to-patient cash fulfillment and are able to fulfill everything from ambient to temperature-sensitive medication to medical devices, making us the most viable option for manufacturers experiencing supply-chain-related problems.
OSP: Do you have any advice for others in the industry to reduce or avoid SC-related challenges? This could include manufacturers, distributors, retailers, or any other stakeholder along the pipeline.
JG: My advice for others in the pharmacy industry looking to reduce or avoid supply-chain-related issues is to embrace the move to digital and look to partners who are experienced and have the capabilities and technologies to seamlessly execute across the entire patient journey.