Healthcare Ready | General Supply Chain

How it Works: The Supply Chain

The pharmaceutical supply chain along which medicines travel is complex. From the manufacturer to the pharmacy, medicines and other healthcare products make many stops before reaching one of the 6,210 hospitals or over 67,000 pharmacies in the United States. The sheer number of medicines and products moved by the supply chain adds to this complexity. According to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science’s April 2018 report “Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S.” in 2017, over 5.8 billion prescriptions were filled in the United States alone. Innovations and partnerships at every stop of the supply chain help guarantee that patients receive the care they need.


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How it works

Scientists research and develop medicines and products.

Products are tested in many rounds of trials to ensure safety and quality.

Raw materials are acquired by manufacturers for production of approved products.

Approved products are packaged at the manufacturing facility for wider distribution.

The “Last Mile” and Supply Chain Security

Known as the ‘last mile’, transporting deliveries from the delivery truck to their final destination, such as a pharmacy, is when these valuable goods are at the highest risk of theft or tampering. Deliveries of medicines and medical products are often a target for theft due to their high value, so distributors must closely monitor both the stability and security of deliveries.

Major distributors share and implement best practices for security during these times, making them company policy. Practices include scheduling deliveries during the day, in the front of buildings, and with two drivers present. Partnerships such as the Pharmaceutical Security Coalition and FreightWatch International send routine alerts to members of suspicious activity.

How it works

Whole sale distributors obtain drug products from manufacturers.

Drug products are then transferred to distributors’ warehouses and distribution centers.

Providers place an order to a distributor and distributors package products for delivery.

Sophisticated warehouse technologies allow distributors to quickly make emergency deliveries and deliveries of many different products in one package. These packages of many different kinds of medicines and medical products are called formularies.

Advanced technologies in trucks and other transportation vehicles allow distributors to transport deliveries in precise climates, monitoring humidity, temperature, light, and more. These sophisticated technologies are vital in ensuring medicines arrive safely to patients.

Expanding Role of Pharmacists

Resources available to patients at the pharmacy are growing every day. Many states are introducing or expanding collaborative practice agreements (CPAs). CPAs are formal relationships between pharmacists and providers (e.g. physicians) that outline expanded services the pharmacist can provide to patients. Examples of expanded functions include initiating, and modifying drug therapy and interpreting lab results.

Prescription Assistance Programs

Pharmaceutical companies joined together to establish the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. This free program serves as a single point of access to nearly 500 public and private assistance programs. The program helps match patients with assistance programs for which they qualify and has helped over 10 million Americans get prescriptions for free, or at a very low cost.