5 Top Trends of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

As with most industries right now, pharmaceutical companies are at a crossroads with providing what customers want while still adhering to regulations and standards. Changes are emerging under the surface to account for this discrepancy, and we’re going to consider the top 5 trends facing the pharmaceutical supply chain as a result right now.

#1 – Drug pricing driving efficiency in processes

Drug prices are a prime area for scrutiny across the world, especially in the US, and increasingly in the UK. As it stands, though, pharmaceutical companies can’t cut costs without compromising on staff, experience, and quality. Recently, though, we’ve started to see this need for pricing changes driving the implementation of more efficient processes. 

By streamlining processes using advancements such as AI and leading-edge software, pharmacies hope to increase workforce productivity and thus be in a position to lower prices. Hopes here also rest on the adaptation of the pharmaceutical supply chain to accommodate new medications that are more cost-effective. Achieving this requires a restructuring of the entire chain to eliminate steps where possible, saving time, work, and money. This, paired with cost-containment efforts surrounding the handling, storage, and distribution of drugs should have a significant impact.

#2 – Personalised medicine

Personalised medicine is tailored to the unique needs of patients, and currently represents significant potential changes in the pharmaceutical supply chain. This move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to medicine should free professionals to enhance patient outcomes, all while cutting costs. 

Perhaps the most significant change we can expect to see from this approach is a shift in how professionals treat patients overall. With personalised medicines, attention rests on prevention rather than cure, with a pro-active focus on addressing individual issues before they require expensive, extensive treatments. By tailoring each medication to an individual’s genomic and diagnostic characterisation, it’s also possible to enhance the efficiency of these preventative efforts. 

Effects here can already be seen within cancer treatments, a condition known for its genetic base and thus its reaction to personalised treatments. Rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis have also reacted well to efforts here so far. 

The NHS has a particular focus on saving money and enhancing pharmaceutical efficiency by using this approach right now. The US, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, China and India are also formulating policies to support the adoption of similar supply chain personalisations. 

#3 – Data, AI, and integrity

Improvements around integrity in data storage have always been a pressing concern in the pharmaceutical industry, and have become even more so since an NHS breach affected 150,000 patients. Efficiency, too, is a pressing concern within the pharmaceutical industry, especially in light of calls for lower pricing. That’s why any pharmaceutical supply chain could benefit a great deal from a reconfiguration of data storage as it stands. 

As we already see from the results of early implementations, the use of AI in all aspects of medical data seems set to improve service and delivery from all angles. Demand forecasting, in particular, looks to show improvements as AI implementations provide greater data regarding demand and shipping patterns. Better quality data also stands to enhance medication development, with demand forecasting in mind.

Even once products arrive within the pharmaceutical supply chain, the use of AI stands to enhance the integrity of everything from packaging usability to tracking device advancements. The correct systems can also guarantee that pharmaceutical organisations can use the massive influx of data now produced daily, all while ensuring patient safety. 

#4 – Economic/ Political Climate

With significant political changes like Brexit on the horizon, economic and political climates are having a significant impact on supply chains across the world, and the pharmaceutical supply chain is no exception. Trade disputes and failed negotiations make it increasingly hard to supply medications across countries and continents. In some cases, issues like these have even left the pharmaceutical supply chain in a reactive state. 

Political problems aside, economic disasters such as flooding and more are also at risk of wreaking havoc on pharmaceutical supplies. As the regularity of hurricanes and more increases, blocked or complicated supply chains are no longer unusual. 

While problems like these have an unfortunate aspect of uncertainty to them, this increasing trend towards disruption suggests that organisations need to take whatever steps they can to prevent it. Primarily, this has led to an increase in the use of risk-based modelling, where a company plans for unexpected eventualities and works to manage medication distribution around that. 

These methods become especially prevalent in the coming weeks, where Brexit makes trade deals within the European Medicines Agency increasingly uncertain. Already, many London-based pharma companies have moved to countries like Amsterdam to prepare for a no-deal. Many more could benefit from similar moves and preparations for ensuring ongoing supplies.

#5 – Collaboration

The value of collaboration within the pharmaceutical supply chain is nothing new, but it is set to explode in ways that it never has before in coming years. This is hardly surprising considering that efforts like these stand to increase efficiency while reducing costs. By sharing data, research, and more, pharma companies stand to see significantly improved processes and exciting drug developments. Within life sciences, in particular, this sharing of information looks set to bring about significant changes.

This collaborative focus is a step removed from the competitive relationships pharmaceutical companies have long shared, but many would argue it’s overdue. Despite previous reluctance from companies within the field, lowered productivity and ongoing political risks are making this an appealing option for many.

Already we’re seeing the impact collaborations like these can bring, with companies so far managing to create high-value products through the use of shared research. These success stories are paving the way for similar collaborations elsewhere. Technology, too, has made collaboration more likely, allowing pharma companies from across the world to share findings at the click of a button. 

With collaborations even set to bridge gaps between academic and industrial research, this could certainly change the pharmaceutical supply chain as we know it.