Understanding Supply Chain and Visibility in the Pharmaceutical Industry

The supply chain management system is incorporated in industries that manufacture products for consumers. It is important to understand the supply chain and its role in moving products from the manufacturer to the consumer. For example, the pharmaceutical industry relies on an efficient system to safely deliver regulated prescription drugs and pharmaceutical products to patients. In order to do so, tracking tools must be in place to protect the integrity of the pharmaceutical product and the supply chain system. 

Components of a Supply Chain 

The supply chain management system includes several components. It includes human resources, logistical activities, and even information that contributes to the movement of products. The process starts with the sourcing of raw materials and manufacturing of the product after conceptualization and planning. 

The system typically ends with the customer purchasing the end product in a physical or online store. In some cases, the product may be reintroduced into the supply chain network as part of the product recycling process. There are other components involved in supply chain management, including rules and regulations that have been put in place to protect consumers. It also includes the tracking tools developed to facilitate and protect the system. 

The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain 

What is supply chain management (SCM)? Like a typical product supply chain, the pharmaceutical system includes several components. It starts with the supplier of raw pharmaceutical ingredients and the manufacturing of the product. It also includes the repackaging phase where the pharma products are labeled based on the compliance rules set by regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration. 

After the packaging of the pharmaceutical product, the product goes to the primary distributor and the secondary distributor. The product then goes to big chain and independent pharmacies, hospitals, HMOs, clinics, nursing homes, and other providers. At the end of the distribution line is the healthcare patient that requires the product. See here for an illustrative example of the drug supply chain process. 

Tracking the Progress of the Pharmaceutical Distribution Process 

The pharmaceutical product must be trackable and visible at all times while passing through the supply chain process. With the signing of the Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), product tracing requirements have been upgraded to include electronic systems and software that monitor the prescription pharmaceutical products across the supply chain. To fulfill the requirements of the law, companies like Rfxcel developed track and trace solutions to protect consumers and manufacturers. 

These track and trace tools provide monitoring capability, starting from the manufacturing of the product. Other tools provide serialization solutions that prevent pharmaceutical fraud. These solutions ensure the authenticity of the product. 

Like any system, the pharmaceutical supply chain is often exposed to fraud and other challenges that may compromise its integrity. Some fraudulent practices affect the quality of the pharmaceutical product and expose the consumer to dangerous effects. To prevent these issues, regulatory, serialization, and supply chain visibility software has been developed to safely track these products across the system.

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