Pharmaceutical Commerce - November/December 2016 - 4
Dispense as Written
The medical crisis that
Remember Hurricane Katrina? Remember the Louisiana Superdome, and the
thousands of people looking for food and relief, and the dire issue of getting needed
medicines to patients? Now, today, you didn't hear about unmet medical needs like that as
floods overwhelmed large parts of Louisiana this fall, or Hurricane Matthew piled into the
North Carolina coast.
One of the reasons news like this didn't make headlines in 2016 is because players in
pharmaceutical distribution have become more organized around emergency relief. One
of the key newer participants is Healthcare Ready, a nonprofit that, among other things,
works with members of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance to bring in the heavy artillery (i.e., 18-wheel trucks loaded with
medical supplies) into disaster areas. You would think that in an advanced industrialized society like the US, emergency
relief happens as a matter of course, but the reality is that medical supplies are too often at the bottom of a long list of more
immediate needs (putting out fires, rescuing stranded persons in flooded streams or from the rooftops of buildings, etc.).
With the recent disasters, Emily Lord, executive director of Healthcare Ready, tells of supply trucks turned away from a
flooded area because local police didn't understand why the truck was on the road. Or that, because many local pharmacists
are dealing with personal crises of their own, a special effort had to be made for permission from a state board of pharmacy
to allow pharmacists licensed in a neighboring state to pitch in to the relief effort.
To be sure, there are many governmental and private agencies ranging from FEMA to the American Red Cross that
have expertise in disaster relief. But, to the extent that the pharmaceutical supply chain is different from supply chains for,
say, food, building materials and other essentials of modern life (and we would contend that these differences are critically
important), there needs to be dedicated resources for medicinal products relief. This coordination has involved active
support from manufacturers, distributors and retail pharmacies (both chain and independent) as well.
If anything, the needs for international medical relief are even more dire than the domestic needs. As this issue was
going to press, the AmerisourceBergen Foundation announced a grant to Partners in Health, an international charity, to
build a modern healthcare-supply facility in Haiti-needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, but also necessary for
upgrading medical services in that country. In past issues of Pharmaceutical Commerce, we've reported on emergency relief
efforts following the Ebola virus outbreak, earthquakes in South America and more. Pharma companies themselves have
been active supporters, using the international relief agencies to send donated supplies, almost as a matter of routine.
Back in the US, a not-widely-noticed recent mandate from CMS will require a multitude of healthcare providers
(hospitals, clinics, long-term care and others) to have emergency management plans in place by November 2017 to continue
to be qualified as Medicare facilities.* Organizing their plans for medical supply continuity will be a big issue for them in
the coming year. Healthcare Ready's Lord expects many phone calls-and some of those queries will be coming to pharma
distributors as well.
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