Strengthening the Strategic National Stockpile for the FutureSeptember 25, 2020
The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) plays a critical role in supplementing state and local supplies during public health emergencies. The lifesaving medicines and healthcare products secured by the stockpile serve as a buffer when supplies may otherwise not be immediately available.
Given the unprecedented scale of COVID-19, policymakers are understandably examining the SNS and evaluating how to enhance it as a tool for responding to future pandemics.
As Congress considers legislation to bolster the SNS, HDA distributor members stand ready to leverage their logistics expertise and supply chain networks to support these efforts. Over the summer, HDA provided recommendations on ways to enhance the SNS in preparation for the next pandemic and how best to leverage distributors’ expertise, infrastructure and skill in doing so.
Leveraging Distributors’ Logistics Expertise
HDA encourages the federal government to use the capabilities of the nation’s existing pharmaceutical distribution infrastructure to expedite and streamline efforts in response to public health emergencies.
As logistics experts, our members are in the business of finding the safest and most efficient ways to get products to patients where they are needed. Distributors can leverage this expertise to strengthen coordination with the SNS and improve the national response to COVID-19 and future public health crises.
Distributors have historically partnered with the federal government to manage, store and deliver pharmaceutical products and medical supplies from the SNS. In doing so, distributors tap into their existing warehouse facilities across the United States, established relationships with manufacturers and healthcare providers, sophisticated ordering systems and efficient shipping networks to swiftly reach every part of the country.
Managing the Strategic National Stockpile Inventory
Pharmaceutical distributors have extensive experience in managing product expiry for medicines. If engaged to help manage the SNS inventory, HDA members would employ a model where they increase inventories of specific products from the current practice of about 28 days of product on hand to a full six months of product (a practice HDA members already occasionally employ for select products).
Distributors would continue to fulfill regular customer orders from this expanded inventory while continually replenishing the depleted inventory with new product ordered from manufacturers to maintain the six-month supply. This replenishment strategy would allow distributors to manage product dating and avoid expiry.
In the event the SNS is activated to respond to a future pandemic or other health emergency, the expanded inventory would provide distributors with additional capacity to swiftly meet increased patient and customer demand.
Enhancing Communication and Coordination
Strengthening communication between federal and state agencies and the pharmaceutical supply chain is imperative to maintaining and leveraging existing distribution channels and appropriately managing the distribution of medical products during a declared state of emergency. Established plans and increased communication related to the SNS will help prepare the supply chain to respond more efficiently and coordinate efforts.
HDA recommended that the SNS increase communication and data sharing about product availability to improve understanding of the demand for medical supplies and provide better visibility into the SNS system.
More robust engagement between the federal government, state and local authorities and public health agencies would further build trust in the SNS response capabilities, allow more efficient allocations during demand surges, avoid redundant efforts and lower overall costs.