'Unprecedented collaboration' key for prescription drug supply chain, expert says


Shortages of prescription drugs can be bad news for a lot of people, including patients who rely on them for daily treatment, physicians who prescribe them and the companies that produce them. To mitigate the challenges of such instances, one expert is calling for greater collaboration for the drug supply chain.

Ralph Neas is the CEO of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, an industry group for generic manufacturers of prescription drugs, which account for 78 percent of the medication dispensed in the United States each year. In a recent article for USA Today, he called for supply chain management improvements that will allow all involved to deal with shortages better.

"[D]ramatically reducing drug shortages is not out of reach. The solution is attainable provided that all members of the drug supply chain - manufacturers, regulators, distributors and purchasers - work together to achieve a positive outcome," he wrote.

Neas also identified several steps that can be taken immediately to get the ball rolling on supply chain management improvements for the industry.

prescription drug supply chain

1. Promote communication

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration exerts a lot of control over the drug manufacturing industry, but companies should understand that working with the agency can be beneficial. Specifically, Neas said, there should be open communication with the FDA about drug shortages.

Some generic companies already voluntarily and proactively inform the FDA, Neas said. By doing so, the process for resolving the problem will be kicked into gear much sooner.

2. Work together

For one reason or another, the FDA sometimes issues mandates to drug manufacturers that may cause delays in the production process, according to Neas.

Of course, the effects of a production slowdown are compounded when the drug being manufactured is medically necessary. When such medications are involved, Neas said, companies should work alongside FDA regulators to get the problem sorted out as quickly as possible.

3. Prioritize the supply

It's a simple fact that some drugs are needed more than others.

Neas suggested that healthcare providers, manufacturers and the FDA work together to identify such drugs and prioritize their production so that shortages can be avoided at all costs. That could mean the difference between life and death for more than a few patients.

According to a recent Enterprise Irregulars report, the supply chain for several industries could benefit from collaboration. The news provider suggested adding a layer of social media to how companies work together.