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In global distribution, don’t forget the patient

Aiming for global harmonization in the complex temperature-sensitive distribution supply chain is ambitious, making it vital to keep the focus on the patient.

Go to a healthcare-centric trade show, such as the 10th Annual Cold Chain & Temperature Management Global Forum, and patient safety is generally assumed to be the bottom-line goal of the complex pharmaceutical/biologics supply chain.

Yet sometimes a gentle reminder helps bring patient safety center-stage. During a question-and-answer period following the event’s Sept. 27 “Panel Discussion: Global Supply Chain Harmonization: Strategies to Improve Collaboration with your Freight Forwarder,” one attendee observed that amid all the discussion about improving communication between manufacturer, distributor, freight forwarder, carrier, etc., he did not once hear the word “patient.”

All five panelists were quick to thank the attendee for bringing patient safety back to the forefront of the global supply chain discussion. The well-worn phrase “last-mile distribution” was interpreted a bit differently by the panelists, which included professionals from Johnson & Johnson, Bayer Healthcare, Fedex, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, and Panther Life Science Logistics.

One panelist admitted the discussion had not “delved into that,” saying, “the patient is what it’s all about, and we should include that in our discussions.”

For all the bridge-building at different points along the supply chain, it was noteworthy to hear panelists admit that along that “last mile,” there are occurrences such as a clinical trial facility failing to properly condition the package, or a physician or patient receiving a shipment and not knowing how to either handle the delivery or dispose of the packaging.

One panelist noted that her company incorporated comments from the field and made packaging changes as a result.

The “last mile” might result in a package reaching a distributor, hospital, or patient, noted another panelist.

Finally, a panelist noted that with all the work a manufacturer does to produce a treatment to help a condition, it’s imperative that the global supply chain delivers the right product at the right time and in the right condition to the right patient.


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