Report: Pharma Supply Chain Underused, Inefficient, Ill-Equipped

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Pharma's manufacturing and supply chain needs a "radical overhaul" because it is underused, inefficient and ill-equipped to cope with new types of products that will be coming to market in the near future, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Pharma’s manufacturing and supply chain needs a “radical overhaul” because it is underused, inefficient, and ill-equipped to cope with new types of products that will be coming to market in the near future, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report, Supplying the future: Which path will you take? is part of PwC’s Pharma 2020 series that examines the issues the pharmaceutical industry will be facing in the next decade.

PwC explains that the pharma industry is currently facing a number of significant challenges, with much attention focusing on drug discovery and the regulatory-review processes. However, it is crucial that companies do not overlook their manufacturing and distribution chains, which will be impacted by a number of trends in the lead up to 2020, says the report. In particular, new product types resulting from advances in nanotechnology, tissue reengineering, stem-cell research, and other innovations will require more complex manufacturing and distribution processes, and will also have a shorter shelf life. Some personalized medicines may even need to be finalized at the pharmacy or point of care.

A number of other trends are also necessitating the need for a change in manufacturing and distribution processes, including the shift of emphasis to patient outcomes; incremental product launches, such as limited label approvals and live licenses contingent on ongoing testing; new modes of healthcare delivery, such as electronic health records and e-prescribing; the growing importance of emerging markets and understanding the developing world; and greater scrutiny into the sourcing and manufacture of regulated products.

“In a world where outcomes count for everything, it’s not molecules that create value but, rather, the ability to integrate data, products, and services in a coherent business offering,” explained the PwC report. “Understanding this shift of emphasis from products to patient outcomes is critical.”


In a press statement, Steve Arlington, global advisory pharmaceutical and life sciences leader at PwC, also added: "The most successful pharma companies will be those that recognize the underlying value locked in their supply chain and can leverage it as a value and brand differentiator rather than just a cost."

According to PwC, the pharma supply chain will undergo three key changes by 2020: it will become fragmented with different models for different product types and patient segments; it will become a means of market differentiation and a source of economic value; and it will become a “two-way street” with information flowing upstream to drive the downstream flow of products and services with the management of information transferred between the pharma company, patient, and healthcare provider being as important as the movement of the product.

According to Arlington: "Companies that recognize information is the currency of the future will be those that go the final mile and stand out by 2020."