For pharma companies, the hurdles accompanying drug development and clinical trials are only the beginning. Distribution presents additional risks, including potential theft and product damage. Fortunately, with the right technology, many pharma supply chain challenges can be remedied entirely.
Here’s a look into the main challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry and how visibility can be of aid.
Pharma supply chain challenges
Problem 1: How to ensure proper handling of products
During the COVID-19 pandemic, supply and demand butted heads, and supply chains were forced to deal with disruption after disruption. While some of these pharma supply chain issues have since been fixed, the industry’s complex ecosystem of multiple stakeholders remains.
Processes must be in place to ensure that pharmaceutical products maintain their quality throughout the distribution process, and they should cover everything from storage to transportation. However, such processes aren’t always easy to integrate. This is especially true when it comes to products that are transported long distances and constantly changing chain of custody.
“You control the process of making medicines in a manufacturing site,” said Amy Shortman, Overhaul’s VP of Product Marketing. “And you’re working GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) Standards. But once your product goes out into the real world, it’s in an unpredictable and uncontrolled environment. The written Service Level Agreement is that your partners/Logistics Service Providers will treat your products the way you agreed, and whilst you may audit these processes once a year, are your agreed standards of care met every time?”
It’s important that companies abide by regulatory standards while also maintaining their own internal standards. This means getting transparency into supply chain processes as much as possible via visibility technology. It also means ensuring products are delivered to the right place and at the right time. For pharmaceuticals especially, a shipment reaching the wrong destination can be catastrophic.
Overhaul has the technology to provide a bird’s-eye view of your supply chain. We help you track national and global shipments via air, ocean, and road. Our technology can also flag compliance breaches en-route, including route changes and unapproved stops.
“We are an alert mechanism to make sure everything stays in compliance, as it’s agreed upon by the parties,” said Shortman. “This is a healthcare shipment and must be treated as such. Chain of custody provides evidence for added peace of mind.”
Problem 2: How to avoid counterfeit and falsified medicines
When pharmaceuticals are properly handled, they usually reach their destination without problem. However, improper handling can cause significant delays or quality issues — or even result in the product no longer being your product.
About 30% of pharmaceuticals in emerging markets are counterfeit, meaning that they are made by someone other than the original manufacturer. Similarly, falsified medicines deliberately misrepresent their composition, identity, or source, which means problems for drug manufacturers and shippers.
“Pharmaceuticals have unique identifiable labels,” said Shortman. “You can put counterfeit medicines into those packages and sell them as legitimate products. This will convince buyers that the fake medicine is a bona fide product. It can then be sold in a black market, or even a legitimate one.”
In other words, all it takes is one bad actor to enter your supply chain and replace your product with a fake one. It’s also not just products that get stolen; packaging can be valuable commodity as legitimate packaging helps shift falsified or counterfeit medicines.
Such thefts can cause a multitude of problems, including monetary and reputational damages. Additionally, patients who need the medicine will have a harder time getting it. And depending on the type of medicine, time is of the essence.
These are all reasons why you need to protect your supply chain.
Visibility tools can help you keep an eye on your products even when they’re thousands of miles away. At Overhaul, we can send alerts when trailers are tampered with or products are moved. Our apps also allow you to connect with your driver in the event they go off course.
Knowledge is power, and with Overhaul’s solution, pharmaceutical companies are better equipped to handle risk management. Increased preparation against risk helps pharma companies overcome the significant challenges related to counterfeiting. They’ll be able to more quickly and easily spot when something isn’t right, which enables them to take swift and decisive action.
Problem 3: How to maintain product quality control
One of the biggest pharmaceutical supply chain challenges concerns quality control. Of course, you want your product to reach the end customer (and to remain your product along the way). But what if, after everything, the medicine winds up spoiling? It won’t matter that it reached its final destination, nor that it was the genuine product — it still can’t be used or may have lost its efficacy.
“If a product needs to be kept on shelves at a specific temperature, it should be transported at that temperature, too,” said Shortman. “Don’t wait for a temperature deviation. You have the ability to see into all of your shipments and make sure everyone is doing what you paid and agreed on. This needs to happen to make sure your product arrives and is safe to use.”
Effective supply chain management in the pharmaceutical industry requires an effective visibility solution. Along with tracking where your product goes, these solutions can provide insight into any temperature deviation along the way.
Once a deviation is spotted, shippers can work with drivers to increase or decrease the temperature, thus preserving product integrity. They can also spot instances in which products are dropped or otherwise damaged and take steps to better secure them.
Pharma supply chain challenges: a summary
Challenges in the pharmaceutical industry start with the development and manufacturing of products. Pharmaceuticals require secure, efficient procedures in order to keep them safe, all the way from creation to distribution.
Of course, this is far from a full list of pharmaceutical supply chain issues. In fact, supply chain management may easily be a pharma company’s biggest challenge. A lack of visibility means an inability to effectively manage your supply chain. But with real time insight and reporting, pharmaceutical supply chain managers can overcome
To learn more about how to combat supply chain issues in the pharmaceutical industry, check out our list of best practices.