In recent years, many industries have been plagued by supply chain challenges. In the pharmaceutical industry, delays and obstacles are especially problematic. They can slow the production and distribution of critical medications, and the lack of availability of a treatment can put the population at risk.

As a life science professional, understanding supply chain management in pharma is beneficial. Here’s what you need to know about what it takes to ensure efficient drug distribution.

Core Concepts of Supply Chain Management

The pharmaceutical supply chain is relatively straightforward. It begins with drug manufacturing, a process that includes the creation, extraction, purification, and processing of materials to create medications. That’s followed by packaging, including the designing and creation of containers, labels, and supporting materials that are distributed.

Next is the wholesale or repackaging phase. This part of the process prepares the drugs for the healthcare market. For example, it can include repackaging medications in consumer-level containers.

Once the drugs are ready for the healthcare market, they move to the consumer distribution point. For prescription medications, that typically means pharmacies. If a treatment is over-the-counter, it can include retail environments like big-box stores, drugstores, or grocery stores.

The last step is the transition of the drug to the consumer. This happens when it’s purchased from the retailer.

Overview of the Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry researches, develops, produces, and distributes medications. The sector operates at a global level, with many pharmaceutical companies creating drugs used by patients from many different parts of the world.

While the pharmaceutical supply chain is relatively straightforward in concept, it’s inherently complex to manage. Manufacturing delays related to a lack of materials or capacity issues are leading to medication shortages all across the globe. Additionally, challenges in the transportation industry have exacerbated the issue, slowing the delivery of drugs to wholesalers and retailers.

Challenges in Pharmaceutical SCM

There are several supply chain management (SCM) challenges pharmaceutical companies may encounter. Material shortages can slow manufacturing, leading to product distribution that falls short of demand. Shifts in material, production, or shipping costs impact the bottom line, potentially leading to less profit or requiring increased costs at the wholesale and consumer level to offset losses.

Navigating applicable SCM regulations can also prove tricky. While they’re essential for product safety, rules can change over time. Pharmaceutical companies have to adapt whenever new mandates emerge, and that can be cumbersome and costly.

Best Practices in Pharmaceutical SCM

Successful drug production and distribution requires methodical manufacturing processes to ensure repeatability as well as robust quality control measures to guarantee medications adhere to various standards. Additionally, end-to-end traceability and inventory visibility are also critical components.

A key best practice in pharmaceutical SCM is successful demand-shift prediction. Data analytics can help determine if demand may increase significantly in a short period, and it can allow pharmaceutical companies to anticipate the need for additional materials, manpower, or shipping solutions to hit demand targets successfully.

Ultimately, SCM in pharma is complex, but managing it successfully is critical. If you’d like to learn more or are a life science employee looking for a new position in the pharmaceutical industry, the Staffing Resource Group makes the process simple. Apply Today and SuRGe your career forward.

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