In many parts of the world, medicines are not always available where and when they are urgently needed. We want patients in low- and middle-income countries to have fast, safe and affordable access to our products and believe this can be accomplished through efficient supply chain management and by utilizing local manufacturing.
Our approach to local supply chain solutions
During product development and manufacturing, we favor approaches that enable us to control the cost of goods and allow for local manufacturing and supply chains that help to strengthen the local economy. We apply this model in our work with the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium, for instance.
We partner with pharmaceutical companies and other supply chain stakeholders to help strengthen supply chains in low- and middle-income countries and to guarantee the targeted supply of medicines. We manufacture some of our products directly in the regions where they are needed in order to build local capacity, increase service quality and flexibility through reduced travel times and distances, and to achieve cost savings that can be passed on to the consumer.
Our pharmaceutical supply chains are organized efficiently to ensure that our products reach the right place in the right condition and quantity, at an affordable price and on time. Modern supply chain solutions that include real-time monitoring allow us to track our inventories and current deliveries as well as to predict expected demand for medicines.
How we organize our supply chains
Our Global Planning unit is responsible for our efficient medicine supply chains and is part of Biopharma Supply Network Operations within our Healthcare business sector. Global Planning collaborates with our Global Health unit and markets supply chain representatives for efficient demand management. It also consults experts from other business sectors as needed.
Our commitment: High quality standards for pharmaceutical production
All our pharmaceutical production plants operate to the same high standard of quality worldwide. This ensures full compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Good Distribution Practice (GDP) for us and our contract manufacturers.
Our Right First Time (RFT) concept aims to reduce the number of temperature excursions that occur during transportation worldwide. We also encourage shipping sites and receiving units to work with freight forwarders and carriers to improve their processes.
Our uniform quality assurance system helps to ensure that our quality standards are universally respected. It comprises training courses, quality control monitoring and technologies tailored to each site. The results of all audits conducted by health authorities are published Group-wide, allowing the respective units to share lessons learned and to benefit from the improvements made by others.
Through our Virtual Plant Teams, we support our contract manufacturers in complying with quality standards. We assign a production expert to our external partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as a virtual site leader and to provide guidance.
Leveraging technological possibilities for efficient market access
Accurate business forecasts are the foundation of efficient supply chain management. We use harmonized biopharmaceutical business planning processes across our Group, including a special software platform that enables us to plan centrally for specific demands for medicines. The data generated by the software platform is provided to the regional affiliates so that they can add their market intelligence. The received forecast is then used to manufacture and deliver medicines according to demand, which allows us to prevent local inventories from running out or expiring.
We employ a software-based solution that provides continuous access to our e-shop for our customers in northwestern Africa, enabling them to quickly and easily order medicines approved by the respective regulatory authorities. The system makes demand more transparent while reducing lead times and miscommunication. Both systems combined enable us to react more quickly to local demands than ever before, even in low- and middle-income markets.
In 2019, we extended the integrated business planning process and platform to other functions within the Healthcare business sector. In this way, we can further improve our understanding of market demand across all our functions, helping to ensure that supply is better balanced with demand.
We also deployed our innovative global production planning tool to the manufacturing sites in Darmstadt (Germany), Mollet (Spain) and Semoy (France). The tool takes the sites’ capacity constraints into account when generating production orders. As a result, we are better able to match the distribution plan with feasible production orders and can provide a much better visibility of the supply to markets.
Working with partners to achieve more
Our collaborations and partnerships are founded on the Group-wide exchange of centrally stored information, which allows us to organize shared supply chains in a more efficient manner.
Shared data platform for medicine donations
NTDeliver is our digital information tool for improving transparency in medicine donation supply chains created through public-private partnerships. Deliveries sent by companies running donation programs are clearly displayed – from purchase orders made by the World Health Organization (WHO) through to delivery to the first warehouse in the destination country. The tool improves the coordination of our efforts and provides WHO, local experts and our company with a more transparent overview of the in-country inventories. We added new features to the tool in 2019, such as an alarm that informs key stakeholders about upcoming expiry dates of medicines that may still be in their inventory.
In Kenya, where schistosomiasis poses a significant challenge to school-aged children, we are collaborating with approximately 12,000 teachers across the country to support a deworming program designed to help prevent and treat instances of schistosomiasis among children. We deploy our NTDeliver tool to monitor the volumes of medicines reaching schools, particularly those of last-mile deliveries to remote, rural locations in Kenya. In addition to tracking the efficiency of schistosomiasis medicine supply chains, we are stepping up our monitoring to understand the positive impact of these supply chains on children’s lives. For instance, we track the number of children treated. In 2019, we further improved this tool and firmly established it as an essential part of the program. Building on this experience, we are reviewing the best way to retrieve unused medicines from the field and store them centrally for upcoming deworming campaigns. We are also considering how best to expand the use of this tool to other countries.
We are a founding member of the Accessibility Platform, which meets to discuss local supply chains during our Access Dialogues. Spearheaded by the private sector, the platform seeks to raise awareness of the importance of improving supply chain efficiency when expanding access to healthcare worldwide. In particular, it aims to increase the sharing of knowledge and information through open, multi-stakeholder dialogue and to identify opportunities for collective action. We also share best practices with other companies and partners on efficient, secure end-to-end supply chains.
Access Delivery Mentorship
As part of our work to innovate and strengthen health systems, we are working on a supply chain capacity-building and mentorship program in Tanzania, with the aim of helping to build a strong and resilient private sector distribution network. We are doing this in collaboration with Business for Health Solutions (BHS) and Bahari, one of Tanzania’s largest medical and health supplies distributors. We have successfully launched and implemented the first pilot program, which brings together our supply chain experts and our partners’ procurement teams to better manage stocks of medicines, thus preventing facilities from running out in times of need.
Promoting local production
In India and Indonesia, we manufacture drugs for diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and diseases of the lower respiratory tract. These capacity-building efforts support local economies and allow us to supply medicines more rapidly and affordably to these and neighboring countries, such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar. We also serve local markets in China and Russia through local production, for example via contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs).
CURAFA™ Points of Care
We aim to address inequalities regarding primary healthcare access in emerging economies and to enable accessibility, availability, awareness, and affordability of primary healthcare in order to fulfill our vision of primary healthcare for everyone, everywhere.
Five facilities within the CURAFA™ initiative are operational in underserved, low-income communities in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. They serve as points of care for integrated primary healthcare services. Each facility is run by local pharmacists and nurses who provide pharmaceutical and clinical services, medicines, digital health solutions, health education, insurance, and financing solutions to their communities. These teams are supported by modern facilities that include Wi-Fi access and cell-phone charging stations, tablet computers, televisions, and refrigerators for cold chain medicines that are solar powered. In 2019, the five sites collectively served over 2,000 patients every month. We implemented a patient management platform and acquired a telemedicine solution in 2019 to improve patient outcomes.
The overarching objective is to further develop the primary healthcare service model, resulting in a sustainable business model. The first achievements towards scale-up were the development of a franchising manual and the CURAFA™ replication request by the Guinean Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene.
In recognition of this work, we received a grant from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
Fight against falsified medicines
According to a WHO report, more than 10% of all medicines in developing and emerging countries are counterfeit or substandard, a situation that creates a major health risk. For more than 20 years, the Global Pharma Health Fund (GPHF), a non-profit initiative funded by our company, has been fighting falsified and substandard medicines with its unique portable, compact laboratory, the GPHF Minilab™.
The GPHF Minilab™ fits into a tropics-resistant flight case and can detect falsified medicines rapidly and cost-effectively. Largely used in Africa and Asia, and cited by WHO as one of the most important tools for detecting substandard and falsified medicines, it enables scientists and clinical staff to verify the content of some 100 active pharmaceutical ingredients for authenticity. The GPHF develops the Minilab’s method inventory, supplies the portable laboratories at cost and provides training on how to use them. In 2019, the GPHF consolidated all 100 test methods within a single manual in English, with translations into French and Spanish due to become available in 2020.
More than 850 Minilabs are currently in use. In 2019, 21 Minilabs were supplied. 15 were given to the Philippines and the others to Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India and Mongolia.
In November 2019, we engaged in discussions on the topic of detecting falsified medicines. At the National Consciousness Week Against Counterfeit Medicines (NCWACM) in the Philippines we discussed challenges and solutions for the fight against counterfeit drugs with local regulatory representatives and government officials. We presented our collaboration with Boston University on the development of a new user-friendly tool to assess the validity of drugs.