The wholesalers say their Rapid Response teams are ready, with additional new storage capacity, increased information sharing, to meet more challenges this summer
The National Pharmaceutical Services Association says that increased collaboration and new investment in distribution logistics have provided additional certainty for the medicine supply chain in the event of seasonal disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones.
As summer temperatures rise and during a La Niña weather cycle, Australia’s medicine distribution network is on a ready footing should communities again be cut off or affected by spikes in medicine demands, it says.
NPSA Chair Richard Vincent said, “Throughout 2020 our member companies have demonstrated expertise in crisis situations with successful management of health logistics during the bushfires and COVID-19, both of which have placed extraordinary pressure on all supply chains.
“We have been able to use this experience to further enhance our capability and agility to service community pharmacy, patients and governments during challenging situations.
“Rapid response teams are ready to be activated across our distribution network along with disaster management strategies for our road transport teams.
“We understand that every disaster is different and presents our network with a unique set of challenges.
“Our members are well placed to respond and help manage spikes in demand and shortages in medicine supplies where possible, something which occurred in March and April this year as COVID panic buying took hold.
“The pandemic has provided fresh insights into consumer behaviour and contributed data which we are using to inform minute-by-minute decision making about high demand medicines.
“The bushfires caused a spike in dispensing for all respiratory medication and a recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report highlighted an example of a sustained period of increased dispensing of salbutamol inhalers in the ACT with a 134% increase as bushfires raged in the first week of the New Year.”
Mr Vincent says that in March, NPSA members “managed record volumes of medicines, moving 70% more product, including high care speciality drugs, into communities across metro, regional and remote areas”.
“We took proactive measures to support equitable access during a highly challenging period,” he says.
The NPSA notes that following the recent combined investment of more than $650M by member companies, two new automated distribution centres have opened in NSW and Victoria, bringing online additional capacity of 60,000 sqm of storage.
“Our thoughts are with everyone following the events of 2020,” Mr Vincent says.
“We want the community to know that the various segments of the medicines supply chain have never been more connected, from government, manufacturer, distributor, pharmacy and through to patient with increased information sharing and dialogue.
“NPSA is an active participant in the government’s medicines shortages working group and has secured a year-long ACCC authorisation allowing member companies to work together to manage the challenges of COVID-19.”