The pharmaceutical supply chain links the drug manufacturers and distributors to the customers. Pharmaceutical wholesalers, hospitals, pharmacies, and other pharmaceutical institutions have a complex relationship with each other, and this relationship impacts the supply chain. The most significant challenges faced by the pharmaceutical supply chain are as follows:
Difficulty in Tracing the Source of the Problem:
Lack of transparency is one of the biggest challenges the pharmaceutical supply chain faces today. Any problem caused during the supply of drugs from one stakeholder to another is almost impossible to trace back. The significant issues that are encountered during the drug delivery to the consumer are:
- Drugs in such a condition are unfit for human consumption.
- Imitation drugs spoiling the shipment.
- Unreasonable high prices.
The root causes of the problems faced by consumers remain a mystery, mainly because it is difficult to establish whether the drug was manufactured improperly or the contamination happened during the transportation.
One of the major concerns of the pharmaceutical supply chain today is unidentified suppliers and a lack of knowledge of the manufacturing process. The pharmaceutical industry is trying to stay ahead of this challenge by attaching product identifiers with the products. As a result, the source of production and transportation can be identified if a problem arises with any batch of the drug.
Cross Border Shipping:
Most medicines are biologics. For example, anti-inflammatory drugs like infliximab, adalimumab, etc., are biologics that need a cold environment. They are formed in bioreactors and shipped across the border to other countries. All the medicines are sensitive to shipping at such distances, but biologics are particularly susceptible. These drugs must be kept cold to protect their efficacy and potency. Cold chain shipping, not yet appropriately developed to be applied at a larger scale, is becoming more and more critical with new gene and cell therapies surfacing every day.
A single drug is transported to hundreds of hospitals through pharmaceutical courier. Each healthcare institute has its requirements. Some hospitals prefer to have the medications on hand before the procedures, while others start the course trusting that the drug will get to them in time. The differences in the process of each institution make it difficult for the pharmaceutical supply chain to set a standard protocol for distribution.
2. Enhancing Data Security:
The pharmaceutical industry is a continuously developing industry where new changes and regulations must be securely transferred from one place to another without error. An enormous challenge faced by the pharmaceutical supply chain is the digitization of documentation and standardization across the industry. Moreover, signatures for regulatory documents, blockchain, and automation also pose another difficulty. Continuous improvement in the digital world of the pharmaceutical industry is the only way forward.
3. Patient-Centric Supply Chain:
Healthcare providers are moving away from the conventional “one size fits all” approach to drug manufacturing and leaning toward personalized medicines for patients. The patient-centric approach to drug provision is not fully functional, but the demand is rapidly growing. The stakeholders will have to accommodate this.