Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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The pharma supply chain involves a complex set of steps from the sourcing and supply of materials to the manufacturing and distribution of drugs to customers that enable them to improve healthcare outcomes. The importance of the pharma supply chain has been brought to the limelight in current times where there is a pressing need for COVID-19 related vaccines, drugs, and other therapeutics.

An article highlights that for medical breakthroughs to be effective an efficacious pharma supply chain must be in place, worldwide. Today, pharma supply chains are dealing with multi-fold challenges such as the sheer volumes mandated by the pandemic response, efficiency of global and hyper-local supply chains, temperature sensitivity, and concerns about tampering.

Today, far more than ever, the healthcare industry ought to leverage advanced technology to bring down costs and create efficient processes.  Based on insights, let’s take a look at some of the technological innovations that are shaping pharma supply chains today.

Smart mobility

The short shelf life of many pharmaceuticals means that an emphasis must be placed on transportation efficiency. Also known as intelligent mobility, this technology can be leveraged at the manufacturing stage to transport materials for the production of critical medication. Theft and counterfeit drugs are a big challenge for pharma supply chains, as this article here clearly depicts. The risk of theft is deemed to be at the highest when the drug is being shipped to the pharmacy or shipping destination from the manufacturer. Smart or intelligent mobility can circumvent these challenges via step-to-step and door-to-door tracking of raw materials, particulates, and even the final medication. Real-time insights about the status and condition of medications can be delivered by these smart mobility solutions such as the temperature of bioavailability of specific drugs during transit. This could lead to a more responsive pharma supply chain as these drugs could make the difference between life and death.

Internet of things

The visibility of pharma supply chains is a critical area of concern and it is here that companies can leverage the Internet of Things (IoT). It would facilitate an ecosystem where there is seamless connectivity between devices, processes, transportation, and ancillary systems. This also involves specific equipment used by labs during the drug discovery process, even manufacturing equipment and devices, and ancillary vehicles for treatment delivery. Leveraging IoT effectively can help identify specific manufacturing, operations, and supply chain bottlenecks. Sensors can keep a tab on equipment performance and inform staff about timely maintenance needs prior to the equipment failing. There is always a risk of changes due to environmental conditions in the pharma industry and this risk is mitigated by leveraging IoT.

Predictive analytics

An appropriate AI/ML strategy during the drug discovery phase can speed up value chain outcomes: The development cycle and time to market is expedited with this technology. Agility and precisions are the pillars of drug development as a drug design lifecycle can usually last for around 10-15 years. The data and analysis required to assess the efficacy of a potential drug candidate is humongous. Leveraging AI/ML can help speed up this process significantly, specific correlation can be determined quickly, and solutions that traditional approaches may fail to uncover can be discovered.

According to Forbes,  AI/ML can measure DNA/RNA more efficaciously and leverage next-generation sequencing for quicker drug discovery. It can also enable precision medicine or tailored medication for specific patients.

Future Outlook

Today, the pharmaceutical industry faces a unique set of challenges. Some of the technological innovations and advances highlighted can go a long way in resolving these challenges. It could also help mitigate drug discovery risks and significantly improve lead times in the pharma supply chain thereby leading to better healthcare outcomes.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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