Distributors Rising to the Challenge During the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 16, 2020

As the impact of COVID-19 “coronavirus” pandemic continues to unfold, we are all deeply concerned about our personal health and well-being — and that of our loved ones. As Americans worry about when their workplaces or schools will reopen, or if they have an adequate supply of necessary household staples, many also have heightened concerns about whether they will be able to access the vital medications and healthcare products they rely on each day.

Having been part of HDA for less than a month, I am impressed to see how our distributor members are working tirelessly to anticipate and prevent disruptions to the supply chain that may result due to COVID-19. Every day, as the logistics experts of healthcare, distributors are taking proactive steps to ensure that pharmacies, hospitals, providers and patients have access to the medicines and supplies they need during this time of uncertainty.

HDA’s distributor members are working closely with federal and state health officials to facilitate timely information sharing and coordination — and maintaining active business continuity plans in the event of disruptions to operations. Importantly, distributors also are communicating in real time with their manufacturer partners to quickly learn of any impact on the supply chain. These collaborative relationships between supply chain trading partners are essential to help ensure a continuous supply of products without disruptions to patient care and are vitally important in managing and mitigating shortages if, and when, they occur.

Distributors also stand ready to collaborate with the White House, Congress, governors across the country and other public and private healthcare leaders to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the American public at this critical juncture.


Securing the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Sitting at the heart of the pharmaceutical supply chain, distributors connect 180,000 healthcare providers and pharmacies with 1,400 drug manufacturers across the country. Distributors maintain strong relationships at both ends of the supply chain to support providers on the frontline during this challenging time, as well as manufacturing partners who are working around the clock to find critical treatments for this public health crisis.

Through these partnerships, pharmaceutical distributors are doing whatever it takes to maintain access to vital health products for the more than 180 million patients who regularly take prescription medicines.

Distributors have operations strategically placed across the country and have built a comprehensive distribution system and supply chain network that is durable and responsive to the demands of each day, and they can adapt when unique challenges arise. Hundreds of technologically advanced distribution centers help HDA’s members efficiently deliver medicines and essential supplies. These facilities are staffed with logistics experts who work to make sure filling and shipping processes are as secure and expedited as possible regardless of the circumstances.


Going Above and Beyond

While COVID-19 provides a unique public health challenge, distributors have years of experience planning for the unexpected and regularly engage before, during and after natural disasters and other emergency response scenarios.

HDA’s members are applying this depth of experience to minimize service disruptions for patients who rely on pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care or other healthcare facilities to fill and dispense their prescriptions. Additionally, HDA and its distributor members are working directly with Healthcare Ready, an organization founded as an industry collaboration in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Healthcare Ready leverages strong relationships with government, nonprofit and medical supply chains to build and enhance the resiliency of communities.

As this healthcare challenge continues to evolve, HDA and its member companies will continue to update partners and the public on these efforts.


Maintaining Healthcare Access and Bringing Innovative Treatments to Market

During public health crises and emergency situations, pharmaceutical distributors play a crucial role in providing timely and accurate information to their customers about product availability, based largely on their strong relationships with manufacturer partners. Distributors use a variety of methods to inform customers about the status of products, including email, online portals, electronic data interchange (EDI), fax and phone.

Distributors are prepared to leverage their distribution networks once a COVID-19 treatment is developed in an effort to ensure rapid patient access. During public health crises, a successful treatment launch is absolutely vital. In the lead-up to product launch, distributors help ensure:
  • Inventories are pre-positioned in the supply chain to help ensure ready access to providers;
  • Drugs are available to providers in a timely manner; and,
  • Distribution plans comply with regulatory mandates from appropriate regulators.
Every day, distributors are committed to doing what we need to do to make sure the medicines and healthcare products that patients rely on get to where they need to go.

This public health crisis is no different. Distributors are rising to the challenge, supporting our supply chain partners and doing everything possible to ensure continuous operations in the healthcare system during this unique and uncertain time for many Americans.

For additional COVID-19 response information, visit our website.