NAS panel says better approach needed for COVID-related supply chain problems

Dec. 7, 2020

Essential medicines and better, diverse solutions to disruptions in the US drug supply caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were the main topics of the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine's (NAS) public workshop held by its Security of America's Medical Product Supply Chain committee this week, reported the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).

This was the second meeting by the committee, which was created as part of the COVID-focused CARES Act to provide recommendations regarding the US medical supply chain. The panelists included representatives from Civica Rx, Vizient, government and public health agencies, the American Hospital Association, the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists (ASHP), and the Resilient Drug Supply Project (RDSP), which is a part of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which publishes CIDRAP News. 

In her presentation, Lisa Hedman, MHM, the World Health Organization's (WHO's) group lead on supply and access to medicines, details the WHO's inter-agency emergency health kits, which, in a way, can be compared to an optimal response to shortages in the drug supply chain. The kits are designed to provide affordable drugs and supplies quickly in public health emergencies.

Similarly, the drug supply chain faces many threats, and responses to those threats may contain certain core elements but cannot all be the same, says Craig Kennedy, senior vice president of global supply chain management at Merck.

Stephen Schondelmeyer, PharmD, PhD, RDSP co-principal investigator, relayed examples of hospitals that received the antiviral drug remdesivir in unmarked boxes in their labs and monoclonal antibodies arriving at long-term care facilities that weren't equipped to administer them. 

Michael Schiller, CISM, senior director of the Association for Health Care Resource & Materials Management, said, "COVID-19 was the perfect storm," as it led to export bans, factory shutdowns, delayed transportation, and demand surges, allocation issues, and substandard and falsified (SF) products. 

The panelists also said that manufacturers that discontinue products should have transitional regulations so market demand can be appropriately transferred, especially in the case of generics. Some suggested that agencies should even address economic issues and create more incentives for companies to stay in critical markets. 

At this time, there is no published timeline for the committee's study and recommendations. The full recording of the public workshops will be available at the NAS site in the coming week.

CIDRAP has the report.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.