Many patients don’t trust the pharmaceutical supply chain and are calling for greater transparency and accountability among stakeholders and government agencies, according to a study from supply chain technology provider Zebra Technologies, released today.
The company surveyed more than 3,500 patients and pharmaceutical industry leaders to evaluate perceived supply chain stability, gauge supply chain responsibility and trust in its entities, and identify needs for improving supply chain visibility and transparency. The researchers found that many patients distrust certain elements of the supply chain, including those who make, distribute, prescribe, and dispense medications, and that 43% worry they could face more illness or even death if certain supply chain problems go unaddressed.
Patients said they are worried about drug effectiveness (75%), as well as labeling errors, contamination due to poor handling or storage, and receiving counterfeit medicines (70%).
“Patients know a compromised supply chain puts medication quality and efficacy at risk and want better assurances their medications are safe and authentic,” the authors wrote. “Nine-in-10 say it is somewhat or very important they can verify a medication is not counterfeit [or] tampered with and confirm temperature sensitive medications have stayed within the prescribed range.”
Patients surveyed also said they expect drug manufacturers to disclose how their medications are manufactured and handled (81%) as well as transported and stored (82%). Eighty percent said it’s important to verify the sources of medication ingredients, including the country of origin and local standards for the medication itself. In addition, 79% of those surveyed said they want to know the source of their medication is sustainable with confirmation the manufacturer is using techniques to protect the environment, animal welfare, human communities, and public health.
“These evolving patient demands will certainly be a wake-up call for pharmaceutical industry leaders who, for years, have been primarily focused on meeting regulatory standards,” John Wirthlin, industry principal for manufacturing, transportation, and logistics at Zebra Technologies, said in a press statement Tuesday. “Manufacturers, government agencies, pharmacies, and healthcare providers must work together to win consumers’ trust in the supply chain.”
Business and government leaders in Europe and the United States have taken steps to address some of these problems. In Europe, the Falsified Medicines Directive aims to improve safety and protect the public from counterfeit or inauthentic drugs, and in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring product tracing systems to be in place by 2023 as part of the Drug Supply Chain Safety Act.
More than 80% of pharmaceutical industry decision makers said they feel prepared to comply with traceability and transparency mandates, according to the Zebra study, and many said they are implementing technology solutions to help with those goals. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they have already deployed location services technology or plan to in the next year–steps that would improve production workflows and drug tracking, reduce inventory loss and tampering, and give patients the visibility and information they want, according to the study.
“The biggest challenge these leaders are facing is being able to make–and move–enough medications to meet patients’ needs,” the authors also said. “ In addition to regulatory delays, industry decision-makers say they are also dealing with production limits, distribution and storage problems, shipping capacity constraints, and transportation delays. Consequently, 92% plan to increase investments in pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chain monitoring tools next year.”