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November 21, 2023

Navigating the National Drug Shortage Crisis

One of the most pressing challenges faced by the health care industry is the national drug shortage crisis. Craig Wright, vice president of Pharmacy Services at Advantus Health Partners, sheds light on the complexities of this crisis and provides insight into how the health care system can tackle the issue head-on.

The unpredictable nature of drug shortages

Craig Wright

The drug shortage crisis is affecting various facets of health care, from physician offices to retail and specialty pharmacies, as well as home health services. The shortages cut across therapy classes, impacting medications used in anesthesia, oncology, pediatrics and beyond. What adds to the difficulty is the apparent randomness of these shortages, making it challenging for health care providers to predict and prepare for the next shortfall.

Even though the current scenario might be exacerbated by the ongoing labor shortage and disruptions in the supply chain caused by the pandemic, Craig emphasizes that drug shortages were an existing issue, predating the global health crisis. However, the combination of these factors has pushed drug shortages to new levels.

Reducing reliance on overseas and bolstering domestic production

A significant factor contributing to the severity of the shortage is the heavy reliance on overseas pharmaceutical production. Craig sees a potential silver lining, anticipating a shift toward domestic production in the U.S. While acknowledging that this transition will take time, he remains optimistic that the U.S. can emerge as a leader in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

However, with the immediacy of the crisis, the health care system needs to take proactive measures in the face of the ongoing shortages.

Creating flexibility and choice amid supply disruptions

Health care organizations that adopt a comprehensive approach to address the drug shortage problem will steer away from a singular contract or sourcing perspective. Craig explains that Advantus’ strategy involves looking for solutions across multiple channels to ensure flexibility when one supplier faces disruptions.

Advantus’ operations team plays a pivotal role, leveraging industry experience in clinical alternatives, inventory management, distribution and advanced purchasing options, including safety stock and bulk purchasing activities. This multifaceted approach allows Advantus to navigate the challenges posed by a rapidly changing pharmaceutical landscape.

Engaging the whole team, including the patient

Craig details the significance of a team mentality in dealing with the challenges posed by drug shortages. By prioritizing patient care and fostering a collaborative environment, Advantus aims to keep stress and burnout levels among our staff at a minimum.

Shortages place stress on patients, as well as health care professionals tasked with explaining these situations. To alleviate strain, health care providers can engage patients in active conversations to explore alternatives and determine the best course of action for their individual needs.

Advantus prepares for future shortages with proactive measures

Short-term and long-term drug shortages are likely to continue. By building partnerships and relationships with wholesalers and suppliers, Advantus seeks greater visibility into the intricacies of the supply chain, especially upstream. While this goal is a work in progress, the current situation serves as a catalyst for gathering intelligence and data that will better equip the industry to overcome future supply chain challenges.

The national drug shortage crisis demands a multifaceted and proactive approach. Advantus Health Partners exemplifies an approach that combines immediate action with long-term strategizing, aiming not only to navigate the current crisis but to build resilience against future uncertainties in the pharmaceutical landscape.

Contact Advantus to learn how we can help your organization overcome your supply chain challenges.

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