From a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in disease management, sophistication of hi-tech era paved the way for the development of individualized treatment options, which can cater to the distinct needs of each patient in order to achieve optimal health outcomes. However, this advancement in the field of pharmacy and biotechnology also entails several challenges in the global health pharmaceutical delivery (GHPD) supply chain, particularly in meeting the demands for new and personalized therapeutics. The following will give us an overview of the top challenges facing GHPD supply chain, according to the study conducted by Privett and Gonsalvez in the year 2014.
Lack of Coordination
Coordination is one of the essential factors to achieve a unified and systematic GHPD. Despite several initiatives to achieve such goal, the industry still faces this challenge due to some reasons such as pluralism of global health institutions and the informal alliances on which power in global health rests, as reported by Sridhar and Batiniji in their study titled “Misfinancing Global Health: A Case for Transparency in Disbursements and Decision Making” published in the 2008 issue of Lancet.
Inventory management in GHPD supply chain involves complex processes which include quantification and replenishment decisions. However, lack of accurate information lead to uncertainty that may bring a negative impact to inventory management.
Procurement and management decisions significantly rely on demand information that is often lacking, absent or aggregated. Several regions still use paper-based system in recording consumption and demand information. Oftentimes, such essential information is not shared with the higher levels of the supply chain. Hence, only individual health facilities are aware of the actual demands leading to large inaccuracies and poor decision making.
Human Resource Dependency
The lack of qualified individuals to fill the logistics-related positions is being recognized as a threat in GHPD supply chain as it results to heavy workload and ineffective role performance. Aside from this, it also leaves key responsibilities unattended, such as making supply chain calculations and decisions. On the contrary, along with the utilization of accessible and user-friendly IT systems, pressure on HR capacity can be alleviated by hiring individuals with less expertise and training who can work with a dynamic team of responsible and trained people equipped with enough knowledge and skills
Decisions related to order management are actually based on demand information or data about the availability of products in the different levels of the supply chain. This means that lack of accurate information would make order management to solely rely on assumptions and experience. As a result, orders may arrive incomplete, inaccurate or delayed, which can negatively affect inventory management and product availability.
Shortage avoidance may seem to play a vital role in ensuring adequate supply to meet the demands of the consumers, particularly in emergency situations such as in the case of outbreaks and epidemics. However, shortage avoidance may also bring a negative impact to the GHPD supply chain as it entails frequent ordering, frequent replenishment, large buffer stocks, and emergency ordering. The process of procurement cycles can oftentimes result to inefficient planning and inventory. Moreover, some warehouses may not have the capacity to accommodate large inventories, thereby increasing the cost and risk for product expiration. In addition, emergency ordering related to shortage avoidance comes with a greater shipping cost to expedite delivery and interrupts with the flow of other orders placed in the system.
Product wastage related to expiration has been one of the major problems in the GHPD supply chain. Such dilemma arises from failure to comply with the First-Expire-First-Out (FEFO) policy and shipment delays related to poor management that can compromise the shelf life of the ordered products.
Unfortunately, not all warehouses possess adequate facilities to support large inventories. Some third party logistics may have poor organization and may not have the designated area for different functions such as receiving, shipping and storage for both damaged and expired products. In the long run, such unfavorable conditions may eventually lead to discrepancies in logistics and inaccuracies in inventory management.
Drug potency is highly affected by environmental conditions, particularly temperature. Hence, failure to provide the right temperature during storage and shipment of pharmaceutical products may lead to a major product wastage. Warehouses may have refrigerated containers or storage rooms. However, monitoring of temperature level may not be ensured making cold chain difficult to maintain. This challenge drives GHPD innovation, leading to the development of cutting-edge technology, such as Vaccine Vial Monitors (VVMs) and FreezeWatchTM tags.
After the manufacturer sends out the product for delivery, it becomes difficult to track its status in each level of the supply chain. Aside from this, the exact date when the products will arrive becomes unknown to both the manufacturer and the recipient.