Pharma CEOs and investors need supply chain knowledge
To date, none have any...
Picture a pharma supply chain, if you can
As a patient, what picture comes to mind when you think of pharmaceutical supply-chains?
Not a single one?
Lorries pulling up at the hospital unloading bay?
Vans delivering into your local pharmacy?
If those are mainly the pictures that come to mind, you should get a lot out of this post.
It’s more complicated than that!
There is much more to it than that, as you may have guessed. That is only the tip of the iceberg—the last leg of a very long journey.
A drug passes through a series of production stages, beginning with raw materials.
Then the drugs and their components travel tens, if not hundreds of thousands of miles. They go through multiple airports, seaports, countries, and continents.
They are acted upon, handed over, acted upon again, handed over again… …and so it goes. The typical length, from beginning to receipt of the product in your hand, is around three years. That is the cumulative lead-time.
This means that companies at the beginning (raw material producers) are producing materials for drugs that will be needed in three years’ time. The quantities they produce depend on projections, estimates, and forecasts. These are handed down between the companies along the chain.
The company developing or selling the drugs at the top of the chain must start the ball rolling, based on sales expectations in their business plans.
When a seismic change in demand occurs, as with COVID-19, it is going to severely challenge the best of supply chains.
When the supply chains have been neglected by their owners for decades, we get what we got— chaos and confusion everywhere.
Pharma CEOs and investors not interested, yet
In 2011, I wrote in Supply Chain Management in the Drug Industry:
Left unattended, supply chains lay around doing the human equivalent of lounging on the sofa, drinking pop (soda), eating sweets (candy), and watching TV.
They behave like neglected children. No other sector seems to have neglected its (supply chain) children to the degree that pharmaceuticals have. The parents are now paying the price for all those years of neglect. The big question is: How do they get the children up off the sofa to start to become productive members of society?
Although the book sold in over 30 countries, for its content on professional management of the supply-chain, the messages on the need for massive change for the better did not permeate to the right quarters—CEOs and investors in large pharmaceutical companies (big pharma). Big pharma has always been the alpha male of the industry.
I’ve still kept banging the drum
Undeterred, I’ve continued to preach the important messages ever since, through publications, speaking at and co-chairing conferences, webinars, podcasts, and on LinkedIn (before getting my marching orders).
In doing that, I seem to have acquired a dual identity in the industry. One is Hedley the consultant, working with companies who want the knowledge, understanding and strategy to help build their brand in the pharmaceutical supply chain.
The other Hedley is attempting the impossible of taming the big pharma monster, by advocating and speaking on radical reform of the industry, for the benefit of all involved.
It is my strong belief that the more you, as a patient, are informed on the workings of the machinery that will insert drugs into your body, the greater the chance of a return to former glory for the pharmaceutical industry.
Let’s do it together!
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