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Survey Finds ‘Worrying’ Trends in Healthcare Supply Chain

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When most people think of the intersection of the pandemic and pharmaceuticals, they naturally think of the COVID-19 vaccines in the development pipeline and how they can’t get here soon enough. But the pandemic has had a much broader impact on healthcare and pharmaceutical supply chains than many probably realized.

“Pharmaceutical supply chains are still struggling to adapt to the global COVID-19 pandemic and prioritize business planning for the future, a worrying concern as we face a possible third wave in this pandemic,” said Simon Ellis, program vice president of supply chain strategies for market research firm IDC. “When both demand and supply are erratic, supply chain agility becomes a critical capability to meet patient needs. Agility requires much tighter and more transparent holistic relationships with suppliers, and levels of collaboration that have not been consistently achieved in the pharmaceutical industry.”

IDC surveyed supply chain leaders of pharmaceutical companies, wholesale distributors, hospitals and pharmacies around the world. Among its discoveries:

  • 46% of respondents had experienced drug shortages during the pandemic, with an equal impact on COVID-19-related treatments and those unrelated to COVID-19.
  • 75% agreed that the pandemic has or will greatly increase problems with drug diversion, including theft and counterfeiting of critical products such as test kits, vaccines and anti-viral medicines.
  • 70% said their supply chain is very vulnerable to experiencing more problems with the continuation of the pandemic.

They also reported that they lacked the visibility and agility needed to be resilient against future disruptions. 65% said they could no longer accurately plan supply and 63% had lost faith in their demand forecasts. 43% admitted they lacked the necessary agility and redundancy to survive major business disruptions.

“The past eight months have stretched healthcare supply chains to the limit, demonstrating that today’s siloed approach to managing disruptions simply will not work,” said Shabbir Dahod, president and CEO of TraceLink, which sponsored the survey. “Traditional information-sharing and business processes need to be broken down in order to improve agility, provide actionable visibility and increase end-to-end supply chain resilience. Next-generation technologies like digital network platforms and supply chain work-management software applications that are designed to work across multiple enterprises can improve supply chain performance and ensure the timely delivery of medicines to patients all over the world.”

The full survey report is available here.

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