The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the fragility of global pharma supply chains. Unexpected and sudden shifts in demand, travel bans, and a lack of supply chain agility and resiliency resulted in shortages in critical medications and medical supplies. In the aftermath of the outbreak, governments and organizations in the pharmaceutical industry, now made aware of the need to better ensure supply chain stability, are looking for ways to strengthen the pharma supply chain. Forward-thinking firms are turning to new technologies like the TraceLink Opus Digital Network Platform to build resilience in supply chains responsible for delivering drugs and medical supplies to healthcare providers, clinicians, and the patients they serve.
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Stakeholders in the pharma supply chain
The pharmaceutical industry supply chain is made up of a number of players. These include the manufacturers who develop medicines by sourcing raw materials and producing drugs; the approved suppliers from whom manufacturers source their raw materials; contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) and contract packaging organizations (CPOs); wholesalers that purchase, warehouse, and distributed approved medications to pharmacies; and logistics providers that transport and deliver medications from one node in the pharma supply chain to the next. The pharma supply chain also encompasses the retail pharmacies and nonretail providers such as hospital, clinics, and nursing homes that provide medications to patients, and various entities that never actually handle pharmaceutical products but have a significant part to play in the pharma value chain such as health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).
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The challenges of managing the pharma supply chain today
The pharma supply chain is a complex network of entities, processes, and highly skilled labor involved in the development, sourcing, manufacturing, transport, and distribution of a wide array of medications. In addition to its complexity, there are several factors that make pharma supply chain management highly challenging today, including its globally distributed footprint, demand volatility, and regulation by governmental agencies, and the threats of counterfeiting and theft in pharma supply chains.
Building resilience into the pharma supply chain
In order to address or overcome some of these challenges, organizations are investing in pharmaceutical supply chain solutions, software they can use to create a more efficient, secure, and resilient pharma supply chain. They are using digital technology like digital network platforms and multienterprise work management applications to streamline supply chain operations and take a more sophisticated approach to supply chain management. They are also using IoT sensors and connected devices to automate temperature monitoring and ease inventory management.
Optimization of the pharmaceutical supply chain is made simpler with the use of innovative digital tools. Digital supply networks and multienterprise work management software are two technologies that are helping to foster true supply chain resiliency by enabling trading partners to coordinate and collaborate more closely on supply chain planning and performance improvement efforts. They can be used to facilitate the real-time exchange of data and insights with partners in the pharma supply chain. The digital supply network offers trading partners end-to-end visibility across the supply chain and lets partners share information to improve operational efficiency and demand forecasting accuracy, reduce the risk of disruption, and ensure that products are delivered on time and in full.
Adding value to the pharma supply chain with the digital supply network
By leveraging TraceLink's Digital Network Platform, which currently has over 280,000 member organizations from across the healthcare sector, players in the pharma supply chain can enhance transparency, trust, and collaboration across trading partners, thereby improving supply chain agility and resilience. They can use their serialization data and other types of supply chain and clinical data not just to drive compliance and improve pharmaceutical supply chain security but also to identify optimization opportunities and establish an end-to-end partner network that generates transformative value for all segments of the pharma supply chain. They can also develop greater resiliency in the face of disruption, and provide patients with the medicines they need even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Pharma Supply Chain FAQs
What is the pharma supply chain?
The phrase "pharma supply chain" refers to all of the entities involved in the production and delivery of medications to patients. This includes active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) suppliers; pharmaceutical manufacturers, or companies that produce the medications; and the wholesalers that purchase, warehouse, and distribute them to health system or retail pharmacies, the organizations that are authorized to dispense medicines to patients in the US pharma supply chain.
How does the pharma supply chain work?
It starts with the drug manufacturers who research, develop, and produce the drugs and the suppliers from whom they source their materials and ends with the delivery of the final product to healthcare providers, pharmacies, and the patients they serve. The pharma supply chain is a complex partner ecosystem that includes research and development partners, raw materials suppliers, manufacturers, contract manufacturing and contract packaging organizations, logistics providers, wholesale distributors, retail and nonretail pharmacies, and healthcare providers.
How has COVID-19 impacted global pharma supply chains?
COVID-19 exposed the many weaknesses in global pharmaceutical supply chains, including an overall lack of agility and resilience in the pharma supply chain of the US and other nations.