Tackling Low Medication Supplies
and Disruptions in the Supply Chain
Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
Interruption of the delivery and transportation of raw materials and finished medications
The pandemic has reduced distribution channels and opportunities for quick delivery of products – both internationally and locally.(1-2)
Impact on the workforce
Global and local restrictions imposed by the current pandemic have impacted not only the physical infrastructure of the supply chain but also its workforce capabilities. We have seen a drastic reduction in the workforce across the globe, as facilities have shut down due to social distancing measures. All the diverse individuals responding to crises are affected – e.g., individuals that work at the various facilities in the supply chain to those that work in all the health care facilities that dispense or administer medications.
Even pre-COVID, any disruptions in the supply chain lead to a significant increase in workforce time and effort. In addition to the added costs of acquiring the medications, drug shortages management consumes a significant amount of personnel time – e.g., time of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, physicians, and nurses, among many others. Based on two surveys, the labor costs associated with managing shortages in health systems translated to an estimated annual impact of $216 million nationally in 2011 and $359 million in 2018.(3-4) Drug shortages during a pandemic will only add to the workforce burden.
Lack of information
Information sharing will continue to be vital. There is a lack of complete publicly available information regarding resupply dates, reasons for shortages, location of raw materials and manufacturing facilities, and many other items. This has been an ongoing issue throughout the years. Health systems are often not given clear definitive end dates or resolution dates. There is a need to build and optimize reporting and surveillance systems continuously.
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1. European Pharmaceutical Review. COVID-19 update: coronavirus and the pharmaceutical supply chain. https://www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/article/116145/covid-19-update-coronavirus-and-the-pharmaceutical-supply-chain/
2. Alexander GC, Qato DM. Ensuring Access to Medications in the US During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA. 2020 Apr 9. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.6016. [Epub ahead of print]
3. Kaakeh R, Sweet BV, Reilly C, et al., Impact of Drug Shortages on U.S. Health Systems, Am. J. Health-Syst. Pharm. 2011; 68:1811-1819
4. Vizient Drug Shortage Impact Report. 2019. https://newsroom.vizientinc.com/sites/vha.newshq.businesswire.com/files/doc_library/file/Drug_Shortages_Labor_Cost_Report_Vizient.pdf