Tackling Low Medication Supplies
and Disruptions in the Supply Chain
Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
Each institution and professional must re-think how they do things. Reflect how each one responds to the challenges imposed from disruptions in access. Reveal what has and is being done and then take action. Determine whether the institution has an essential medicines list.(1-2) Evaluate what information is available and what is still needed. What safeguards is one putting in place to ensure patients receive appropriate, quality care during a shortage? Create strategies to address current issues, as well as strategies to prevent and manage future disruptions. By doing this, more efficient strategies – ones that may even reduce cost, time, effort, and staffing requirements – may be created.
Create practice guidelines, contingency and risk management plans
Numerous organizations and individuals have echoed the need for detailed practice guidelines, contingency, and risk management plans.(1-5) The plans should outline situations that entail the operations during and post a pandemic. Institutions should determine how they will react when processes resume or medication(s) become available. Are they setting up the infrastructure/preparing for a post-COVID? Revisit the existing guidelines (if they exist) or create new ones moving forward. Business models across the supply chain may change in the coming months and years.
Evaluate workforce utilization and discover new strategies to optimize output and reduce burnout
Management of drug shortages requires a collaborative effort by different professionals within health facilities. It is fundamental to take a proactive approach to drug shortage management by forming a multi-disciplinary team and creating policies and standard operating procedures to streamline processes. Seek resources and incorporate practices within institutions to reduce workforce burnout.(6)
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1. 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]
2. World Health Organization. WHO updates global guidance on medicines and diagnostic tests to address health challenges, prioritize highly effective therapeutics, and improve affordable access. July 2019. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/09-07-2019-who-updates-global-guidance-on-medicines-and-diagnostic-tests-to-address-health-challenges-prioritize-highly-effective-therapeutics-and-improve-affordable-access
3. United States Pharmacopeia (USP). COVID-19: addressing the global health crisis. https://www.usp.org/covid-19.
4. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. ASHP guidelines on managing drug product shortages. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2018; 75:e593-601.
5. United States Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Supply Chain Update. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-supply-chain-update
6. Reddy-Prasad L, Kaakeh R, McCarthy BC. Burnout Among Health System Pharmacists: Presentation, Consequences, and Recommendations. Hospital Pharmacy. Ahead of print: https://doi.org/10.1177/0018578720910397