Leveraging Public and Private Sector Collaboration to Respond to COVID-19

May 27, 2020
While it has only been a few months since the first American was diagnosed with COVID-19, the scope of the pandemic is one which we have never experienced before. Throughout, it has become abundantly clear that our nation’s ability to effectively respond to this once-in-a-lifetime crisis depends on the public and private sectors joining forces, maintaining constant coordination, and working together to identify operational and regulatory barriers impeding access to medicines and medical supplies.

The pharmaceutical distribution industry is committed to working hand-in-hand with federal and state governments on COVID-19 response efforts. Through these partnerships, pharmaceutical distributors maintain a constant line of sight into the broader supply chain and quickly respond to emerging priorities.

As an example of this important collaboration, distributors are playing a key role by working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on a number of issues identified since the onset of the pandemic.

Beginning in March, as hospitals around the country struggled to manage the surge of new patients in COVID-19 hot spots, state and federal officials moved quickly to increase the number of satellite care centers capable of treating patients. However, standing regulations mandating that controlled substances can only be delivered to designated addresses of a hospital registrant created unique and unexpected challenges related to moving these products to temporary facilities.

Close coordination — between HDA, working on behalf of its members, and the DEA — was required to arrive at a solution. Distributors actively communicated with federal officials to flag this regulatory hurdle and worked collaboratively to identify and resolve supply chain barriers to ensure critical medicines and healthcare equipment, including ventilators, made their way directly to satellite care sites.

In a similar manner, HDA also responded to a request from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for suggestions to ease or simplify regulations that would facilitate supply chain response efforts to the pandemic. HDA provided several specific suggestions, as well as organized a briefing call with FDA officials to discuss experiences distributors were having with product shortages and how the industry was ensuring equitable distribution of available products. The feedback from the briefing was very productive and FDA staff suggested maintaining an open line of communication moving forward.

These are just a few examples of how private sector expertise can assist government agencies with solutions that will help response efforts, and ultimately patients. Sitting at the heart of the pharmaceutical supply chain and supporting more than 180,000 frontline providers and 1,400 manufacturing partners, distributors are leveraging every tool in their toolbox to source product and move it as efficiently as possible to the areas of greatest need.

During this crisis, distributors have been doing what they do best, not only fulfilling the daily healthcare needs of Americans, but finding the safest and most efficient ways to get medicines, PPE and other products to healthcare professionals and first responders. The industry is committed to collaborating with federal and state governments to an even greater extent, lending expertise in logistics and supply chain relationships to the national response effort.

While the global crisis has stressed the healthcare system, partnership between the public and private sectors has the unique capacity to solve complex challenges and keep Americans safe in uncertain times.

For additional HDA materials and pandemic response resources, visit our website.