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APICS Supply Chain Management Now

More Valuable than Gold

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi CSCP, CPA, CAE - July 06, 2012
APICS Operations Management NowLast week, the Drug Information Association (DIA) held its annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of the highlights was a special town hall session on supply chain security, which APICS staff had the opportunity to attend.

The session was facilitated by Connie Jung, PhD, of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) office of drug security, integrity, and recalls. She brought together representatives of international regulatory agencies, manufacturers, distributors, and others involved in securing the global drug supply chain. 

Issues surrounding both the availability and authenticity of drugs were the main focus of the forum. Christa Wirthumer-Hoche, PhD, deputy head of the Austrian Medicinal and Medical Device Agency, discussed a number of risks to availability, including consolidation in manufacturing. She noted that, with fewer manufacturing sites supplying pharmaceutical ingredients, a disruption at a single location can cause a shortage. Other risks to pharmaceutical availability include raw materials shortages, reluctance of manufacturers to enter undesirable markets, and disruptions to the distribution chain due to natural disasters.

Meanwhile, Gregg Goneconto, special agent in the office of criminal investigations at the FDA, addressed the unsettling phenomenon of drug counterfeiting. As some pharmaceuticals are__gram for gram__more valuable than gold, the incentive to illegally counterfeit drugs is high. Counterfeiting can occur in any part of the supply chain, but is particularly prevalent after the product leaves the manufacturer. Wherever counterfeiting occurs, the impacts for patients include adverse side effects and ineffectual treatments. As a result, members of regulatory agencies around the world including the FDA have no choice but to become experts on the global drug supply chain.

Supply chain professionals in the center

Whether it’s to prevent shortages or protect against counterfeit drugs, supply chain transparency continues to be the goal. This goal, however, is elusive, for reasons ranging from insufficient integration of supporting systems to a lack of incentive for supply chain players to change communication behaviors. Still, as regulatory agencies and customers apply increasing pressure on the stakeholders in the drug supply chain, progress is likely to come.

Supply chain and operations management professionals will be key contributors to this shift, and I am increasingly impressed with how important your work is to securing the health and welfare of people across the globe. It’s vital that APICS continues to provide a venue for you to collaborate on and develop new standards and solutions that enhance supply chain security.

On the Supply Chain Channel, APICS members can access a forum dedicated to exploring the issues related to the global pharmaceutical supply chain. Log on to contribute to this very important conversation. Then, make plans to attend the 2012 APICS International Conference & Expo, where we will conduct a town hall meeting to discuss relevant issues and find potential solutions to global drug supply chain problems. We hope to see you there as we work together to advance the practice of supply chain management in the benefit of the public interest.

Idea exchange

Now, you can take the APICS Operations Management Now discussion to your social networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the APICS Supply Chain Channel. Be sure to use the hashtag #OMNow and include @Tweet_APICS in any tweets to have your words featured on the APICS homepage.

  • Issues with the availability and authenticity of drugs are two of the biggest concerns in the pharmaceutical supply chain. How do other industries deal with these issues?
  • Can you think of any other examples of situations where regulatory agencies have taken an active role in supply chain questions?
  • What are some other potential major concerns for the pharmaceutical supply chain?
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