Pharma supply chain still highly vulnerable to COVID-19 pandemic, says research

Report reveals global pharma supply chain leaders are afraid of the vulnerabilities in the end-to-end supply chain as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

empty blister pill packaging - idea of drug shortages due to supply chain vulnerabilities

New industry research reveals 75 percent of pharma supply chain leaders believe the COVID-19 will greatly increase problems with drug diversion, including theft and counterfeiting of critical products (such as test kits, vaccines and anti-viral medicines). The report found that COVID-19 has also caused significant challenges with drug shortages and increased production costs.

The IDC White Paper surveyed 532 global supply chain leaders across organisational levels and functions in pharmaceutical companies, wholesale distributors, hospitals and pharmacies. It highlighted that drug shortages are the primary problem faced by respondents – 46 percent of which have experienced shortages on both COVID-19-related and unrelated therapeutics during the pandemic. Stockpiling medications, transportation delays and increased costs were the other primary concerns after drug shortages.

Additionally, 70 percent of the leaders surveyed said their supply chain was vulnerable to ongoing problems caused by the continuation of the pandemic and that on-time, in-full delivery of medicines had deteriorated by almost 50 percent within the first few months of the pandemic.

The respondents suggested that pharma supply chains are not resilient to disruptions because the forecasting is too inaccurate to plan supply (65 percent of respondents); and the supply chain is not agile enough and lacks the necessary redundancy to survive major business disruptions (43 percent).

Collaboration is essential to supply chain resilience

Simon Ellis, Program Vice President, Supply Chain Strategies, IDC, said: “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. 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, largely because of the constraints in sharing accurate data.”

Shabbir Dahod, president and Chief Executive Officer of TraceLink, added: “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. 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.”