Predictability in supply chain management and drug distribution can create many benefits for retail pharmacies. It also enables you to best serve your patients and keep your pharmacy staff safe.

In this edition of Ask a Supply Chain Expert, Brent Wunderlich, senior director for engineering and analytics at McKesson, identifies the opportunities your retail pharmacy has in its supply chain to keep providing safe, uninterrupted care to your patients.

What are you responsible for in your role at McKesson?

Wunderlich: I work with our distribution centers and our retail pharmacies to improve their supply chain management performance. I spend more and more of my time working with them on some big customer distribution initiatives.

What are some of the retail pharmacy distribution initiatives that you’re working on now?
Ensuring the Safety of Your Retail Pharmacys Supply Chain

Wunderlich: A lot of what we’re doing comes from pharmacies changing their business models. Some of them are getting out of self-warehousing to cut costs. That’s when manufacturers would ship their products to your own warehouse and you’d then distribute them to your pharmacy locations. Ideally, you want your manufacturers to ship their products to a distributor like us and then have the distributor deliver those products to your pharmacies.

What are some operational challenges retail pharmacies have with their supply chain?

Wunderlich: One challenge is the timing of your deliveries. You want your order on time and you want your order to be accurate. Your orders and your order volume can change, so we’re always trying to find the most efficient packing and the best routes to get the right products to the right locations at the right time.

What are some ways retail pharmacies can ensure timely, safe and successful deliveries?

Wunderlich: We see successful deliveries as the result of a true partnership between your pharmacy and us. Your delivery schedule should match your needs, and the transaction should be as safe and as seamless as possible. You should have someone there to receive your order. The delivery should be in a safe and secure environment in terms of time of day, lights, cameras and physical access. You should have the right equipment to move packages and store your drug products. Meeting all those criteria results in a successful delivery.

What compliance issues do retail pharmacies face that can affect the safety of their supply chain?

Wunderlich: You should be aware of a few. The first is the new USP 800 practice standards from United States Pharmacopeia. The standards take effect on December 1st and outline how your pharmacy should handle and manage hazardous drugs. You can access information from your national, state and local pharmacy associations for guidance on what you should know about the standards and how you should comply with them in case any of your sites deal with any drugs that could harm your staff, your patients or the environment.

What other compliance issues can affect the safety of a retail pharmacy’s drug supply chain?

Wunderlich: The other one to be aware of is the new track and trace requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. A little more than a year from now—by November 2023—you will need to be able to authenticate and verify each drug in your possession at the unit-dose level. To do that, you’ll need to be able to scan and read 2D bar codes on each drug unit as each will have a unique serialization number. And you’ll need to be able to collect and store that data to report where each drug came from and who you dispensed it to. Complying with the USP 800 standards will keep your pharmacy and your employees safe. Complying with the DSCSA requirements will keep the drug supply chain and your patients safe.

What other trends do you see affecting the supply chain performance of retail pharmacies?

Wunderlich: I’d put automation at the top of the list. As you know, labor costs and inventory costs are two of the biggest expenses on your profit and loss statement. Replacing manual prescription fills with automated prescription fills reduces the time that your pharmacists and technicians spend putting pills in bottles. That gives them more time to spend on higher-level tasks like direct patient care. Further, you can automate your fills at a central-fill facility. Central fill then delivers your drugs to each of your sites or your patients as needed, lowering your onsite inventory costs.

What do you like most working with retail pharmacies on their supply chain challenges?

Wunderlich: I love the variety. Each pharmacy, pharmacist and owner has a different challenge. They have different perspectives. They have different personalities and opinions. For me, it’s a chance to learn something new. More importantly, it’s an opportunity to come up with a custom solution for their unique supply chain issue. Ultimately, we all have the same goal—to get patients the drugs they need to get healthy. But how each pharmacy uses their supply chain to get there can be very different.

Editor’s note: Have a question for one of our supply chain experts? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you’d like to see covered in a future edition of Ask a Supply Chain Expert.

Related: Learn more about McKesson pharmaceutical distribution services for retail pharmacies

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McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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