Nothing matters more than patient safety. And that starts with the supply chain. From distribution to filling prescriptions, there’s so much that can affect a patient’s safety before they even receive their medication.

Biopharma companies need to make sure they store and transport drugs correctly so they remain effective. And pharmacists need to make sure each patient gets the right drug in the right dosage. Taken from Ask a Supply Chain Expert interviews, here are four supply chain best practices that address these challenges and improve patient safety across the board.

1. Improve accuracy through central fill

For pharmacists, accurately filling prescriptions is one of the most important elements of patient safety. Each patient needs to get the right medication, in the right dosage at the right time. But filling prescriptions by hand can introduce human error. Switching to a central fill model can boost accuracy. Mark Edwards discusses this in “Using Your Retail Pharmacy’s Supply Chain to Exceed Patient Expectations.” Edwards is the vice president of central fill operations for McKesson Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services. He says using a central fill facility improves accuracy in several ways.

  • It lets you automate your fill-and-dispense processes, making these steps more accurate than if you performed them by hand.
  • The automated system runs multiple checks to make sure all components are correct. This includes prescription, dosage and packaging.
  • An automated system can fill a higher volume of prescriptions at a faster rate. This means you can help patients more quickly.

By switching to central fill, you increase prescription accuracy. You reduce human error. Your patients get the right drug when they need it. And your pharmacists have more time to focus on patient care.

2. Prevent drug shortages with increased communication

Another patient safety concern for pharmacists is drug shortages. A shortage could delay or disrupt treatment. It could mean a patient gets a less-effective drug. Or it could mean a provider has to think of a new treatment plan for the patient. Christopher Van Norman explains how to avoid these scenarios in “How Your Hospital Pharmacy Can Manage Drug Shortages.” Van Norman is the vice president and general manager of strategic operations for McKesson Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services. He explains that preventing drug shortages starts with better communication. And that communication needs to happen between pharmacists and distributors. As a pharmacist, you should communicate:

  • What medications you need
  • Any changes in your buying patterns
  • Anything else that may affect the demand for a drug

In turn, your distributor should tell you when a drug you need becomes unavailable. They should also tell you if it’s a short or long-term issue. Better supply chain communication can reduce the risk of drug shortages and lead to better patient outcomes.

3. Focus on cold chain management

For biopharma companies, cold chain management is essential for patient safety. Different drugs need to be kept at different temperatures to maintain their integrity. For example, specialty drugs often need to be kept at frozen or even ultra-frozen temperatures to remain effective. It should be best practice to include proper cold chain management at every stage of distribution. Christopher Armstrong discusses this in “Establishing the Right Distribution Strategy for Your Specialty Drugs.” Armstrong is the vice president of distribution operations for McKesson Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services. He suggests finding a distribution partner who has temperature controls that include:

  • Redundant capabilities
  • Emergency power generation
  • Around-the-clock monitoring of critical temperature alarms

Your distributor should be able to do these things for different types of packaging and shipping methods. Above all, they should be able to keep your drug at the necessary temperature from the point of receipt to the point of delivery.

4. Choose the right drug packaging

Drug packaging is another patient safety issue for biopharma companies. Packaging should not only suit the unique needs of the drug itself. It should also control for certain factors that could compromise the drug’s integrity. Crissy Cecil discusses this challenge in “How Drug Manufacturers Can Avoid Supply Chain Interruptions.” Cecil is the director of business development for McKesson Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services. She suggests biopharma companies look for packaging that can control for several factors, including:

  • Temperature
  • Light
  • Moisture

If your packaging doesn’t protect against these factors, the drug ingredients could break down. It could take on water. And it could become less effective or even harmful to patients. But all the while, it needs to be easy for patients to open. Consider packaging options that check each of those boxes before your drug is shipped and dispensed to patients.

For pharmacies and biopharma companies alike, patient safety starts with the supply chain. By adopting these best practices, you can make sure that drug quality is never compromised. You’ll also ensure patients receive the right drug in the right dosage at the right time. Better health outcomes is the ultimate goal—and it all starts with your supply chain processes.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s drug packaging solutions for pharmaceutical manufacturers

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