Pharma Industry Calls For Tech-Enabled Supply Chain Management

In the emerging age of biologics, gene therapies and personalised medicine, pharmaceutical products will have short lifespans and must be shipped under temperature-controlled conditions and just-in-time timelines. It is here that supply chain management for pharmaceutical industry plays a critical role to ensure quality, safety and efficacy.

During a day-long series of panel discussions on ‘The Future of Supply Chain Management’, speakers representing Indian pharmaceutical companies and logistics service providers underscored the importance of putting the patient at the centre of healthcare delivery and medicine.

The day-long conference was organised by The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), along with Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) and Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA).

Ensuring quality of medicine is a responsibility of the pharmaceutical industry, said A Vaidheesh, president of OPPI. “Global best practices ensure that the quality of medicine is not compromised for the Indian patient.”

“Making medicines is a series of complex processes involving manufacturing, supply chain, intermediaries and markets. Ensuring the integrity of the supply chain till it reaches the patient is critical. The future of the pharma supply chain will only get more advanced with the advent of technology and its interface,” said Kanchana TK, director general, OPPI.

Supply chain process begins with the sourcing of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and goes through the manufacturing, packaging, distribution and storage of medicines before it reaches the patient at the other end. The integrity of the supply chain is what makes the outcomes patient-centric. Yet, many of us are familiar with media reports of frequent instances wherein counterfeit and poor quality medicines have caused unnecessary loss of lives.

The conference saw experts on the panels sharing learnings and cited lessons from other industries like fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), an industry which also deals extensively in perishables. Others talked about what it took to build a really good supply chain, the roles that logistics and warehousing played in making sure that medicines do not lose their efficacy (or curative power) during transportation and storage.

“The future of pharma supply chain will need to ensure that medicines delivered to patients retain effectiveness. Tech-enabled supply chain will not only increase efficiency and quality of medicines dispensed but will also encourage patient-centred care,” said Sudarshan Jain, director general, IPA.

One of the panel discussions was on how stakeholders in the supply chain for pharmaceuticals can decode applications of artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain to improve and enhance tracking and visibility of pharma shipments. Members in the panel also shared examples of how these technologies are beginning to be used in other countries for various industries.

Daara Patel, secretary general of IDMA was just as emphatic on the importance of supply chain integrity. “We have several thousand manufacturers involved in making medicines,” he said. “Making sure that they all adhere to the global manufacturing practices is important to patient safety.” – ITLN

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