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Manufacture Supply Chain, Trends & Forecasts, Vaccines

Facing the Challenge

2020 began as a year with a focus on important trends in biopharmaceutical manufacturing: growing demand in “pharmerging” markets, cost pressures, more self-administered injectables, exciting new cancer therapies, and continued attention on cell and gene therapies. Then, in Q1, first in Asia, then in Europe and the Americas, we were suddenly confronted with an unprecedented challenge…

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a unique impact on our lives. Government health organizations have had to cope with a growing public health impact – simultaneously dealing with informing the public and governments about the risks, identifying the causative agent, developing effective diagnostics, providing guidance on treatment and protective measures, and accelerating the development of therapies and, eventually, a vaccine. And all of us have had to deal with quarantines, travel and economic disruption, and confusion over conflicting guidance from officials.

Despite all of these challenges, I am encouraged by the way the medical products industry has responded to the crisis. The rapid increase in demand for a wide range of products has put supply chains to the test. Personal protective equipment was one of the first areas where demand rapidly outpaced supply; masks, gloves, gowns, and sanitizers have been challenging to obtain, especially because the pandemic has affected workers in regions where these items are primarily manufactured. Diagnostic tools have had to be developed more quickly than usual and there have also been increases in demand for both ventilators and the drugs needed to support mechanical ventilation.

At the same time, however, partnerships between clinicians and drug developers and the evaluation of numerous potential therapeutic avenues have proceeded with remarkable speed. Similarly, the development of vaccines has experienced a level of collaboration and development we’ve never seen before. Multiple candidates are under evaluation and we hope that the normal vaccine development time of several years will be shortened significantly.

We still have a long way to go. The pandemic is still growing and the challenges of balancing its health and societal impacts will continue for some time. We must reevaluate our supply chain strategies to lessen our vulnerability to this type of disruption in the future. But I have confidence that all of us in the medical products industry will continue to do our part to get humanity through this crisis.

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About the Author
Richard M. Johnson

President & CEO, Parenteral Drug Association

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