Over the last two years, Americans have become very familiar with something they never needed to think about previously, the supply chain.
And while most Americans might think about the supply chain in terms of consumer goods such as appliances, furniture, electronics, and even food for their local grocery store, another area that directly affects Americans is medicine.
There are supply chain issues in delivering medicine to local pharmacies.
The supply issue is happening from large institutional pharmacies that have thousands of locations across the country, to a privately owned, on the corner, mom and pop retail store. So it’s a problem we’ve seen at all levels of the industry.
I’m Bill Mohn, I’m Vice President of Healthcare Business Development at USPack Logistics. I’ve been doing strictly healthcare logistics for USPack and its predecessors for over 14 years.
[Pharmacies] can’t get their normal supply from their wholesaler, they’re forced to pivot quickly and make sure that their customer gets the medications they need. But what happens is, instead of filling a full prescription, they’re forced to fill partial so they can meet the demands of their entire patient base.
What that means is they have to handle the medication twice. So, if you’re looking for a 30-day supply of a medication, they may be able to fill a week or two weeks’ worth of that supply to make sure you’re not out of compliance. So, now they have to fill that medication a second time, and from our perspective, now they have to deliver it a second time.
So, there’s a lot more cost involved for them internally, and they don’t have the capability of billing for that twice, right? You’re billing for this, the same 30 pills, but now you’re processing it twice, delivering it twice.
It’s funny because you don’t really think about this type of situation with your pharmacy. I mean, I think there are a lot of things that people have taken for granted and are being revealed to be more fragile than we thought. But you don’t always think about the pharmacy that they’re like any other business.
From the wholesaler perspective, it even goes upstream to the manufacturer, right? So, the wholesaler can’t get the drug from the manufacturer. Sure, maybe the manufacturer can’t get raw materials from their suppliers. So, it’s really a particular challenge to manage medication compliance to make sure all your patients have exactly what they need.
And they can’t cut in patient care or medication delivery. I’m guessing they almost come to you with hat in hand and say, you know, what can we do?
We try to work very closely with the pharmacies when this happens. Most of the time they’re very communicative to us. We see it. We see the amount of deliveries, the amount of drivers, driver need going up. We understand that it’s driving up their costs. So we work very closely with them to try to leverage the existing route structure that we use to limit the damage that’s going to happen from a financial perspective by handling those extra deliveries, those second fills, as expeditiously and inexpensively as we can from a delivery perspective
The cost of delivering to a retail patient is obviously more per patient than it is if you’re delivering to a facility that has multiple patients. So, it becomes even more imperative to work on the retail end of it with a lot of our customers to make sure that we’re putting a plan together that leverages the existing network that we use for them to help keep costs down as much as possible. We provide specialized reporting to customers that allows us to use data to try to help drive that efficiency. Every day, we try to drive efficiency, but in these situations we’re having now with supply, it’s even more imperative that they can look at a very detailed picture of what happens in their network on a daily basis and it take our recommendations to adjust so internally they can fill more efficiently in these times.
And we’ve been very successful at it. It’s a very difficult situation though. And I’ve seen it in ebbs and flows. It doesn’t happen all the time, it’s happened even pre COVID, but in COVID it’s been exacerbated.
The entire network from from doctors, down through the pharmacy, to their logistics providers all have to think outside of the box in these times to make sure that we’re handling things as efficiently as possible and still being compliant with the patient’s medication needs.
There’s a whole new you know segment of questions that are happening in today’s environment that everybody is dealing with.