Can Keeping Pharmaceutical Warehousing Costs Under Control Rein in Drug Prices?

Using WMS and supply chain technology helps keep drug pricing under control

With the recent Congressional hearings regarding skyrocketing prescription drug prices, consumers and politicians are struggling to find ways to rein in pharmaceutical product costs. Other industries are finding the pace of change daunting these days, but the pharmaceutical industry is facing a complicated, uphill battle on numerous fronts.  The pharmaceutical and medical device industry is in a crisis. 

The pharmaceutical industry is in the throes of major transformation.  From the increasing trend towards biologic pharmaceuticals to the digital transformation of the supply chain, the pharmaceutical industry has been changing, however the structure of the supply chain has not kept the pace with the alterations.  Although pharmaceutical manufacturers have focused on drug discovery and drug development. Unfortunately,  advancing the pharmaceutical supply chain has taken a back seat to developing and manufacturing pharmaceutical products.  Access to medicines may have improved but it has come at a cost.

Pharmaceutical supply chains are often complicated, under-performing and ineffective.  Although pharmaceutical products have fundamentally changed, the pharmaceutical supply chain often struggles to effectively manage, store and ship goods in the most safe, cost-effective manner.  Today, biologic drugs (sometimes referred to as large molecule drugs) are an increasingly dominant force in the market.  Biologics are complex as compared to small molecule drug products. 

These products typically need specialized handling, storage, processing and transport as they tend to be unusually fragile and subject to damage in certain conditions including temperature.  Whereas damages to small molecule drugs may be costly, damages to biologic drugs can be astronomical.   Biologics are much more costly and time consuming to produce.  Since biologics cannot have a generic equivalent, damaging a shipment or large amount of biologic drugs can have devastating effect on patients.  Biologics require more complicated manufacturing processes that cannot be duplicated precisely and these processes are protected as intellectual property, minimizing the number of companies that can produce a particular drug.  Because biologics are usually developed for a specific medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or cancer, the impact of a mass of product could be disastrous in terms of human life and quality of life consequences.

Keep Pharmaceutical Product Costs under Control with Efficient Warehouse Operations

Using a warehouse management system designed for use with pharmaceutical inventory= helps streamline operational processes, ensure greater accuracy and product safety.  Here are some of the other benefits of using warehouse management software with specialized functionality for pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other regulated goods:

  • Ensure tighter inventory control
  • Minimize errors and the labor needed to correct mistakes
  • Reduce drug product damages
  • Improve flow of information for more effective decision making
  • Alleviate delays and errors in medication shipments
  • Improve time of tracking and locating suspect drug products for product recalls and disposal or return to vendor
  • Improve ability to segregate goods in order to keep controlled products in a secured area
  • Enhance recordkeeping and reporting capabilities
  • Facilitate proper handling and storage of goods by expiration date
  • Minimize product waste by properly managing and shipping inventory close to expiration date
  • Automating processes for warehouse operations to ensure conformity and accuracy

The proper handling, storage and transport of prescription drugs helps to ensure the ongoing health and quality of life of consumers.  

Using a warehouse management system designed for pharmaceutical inventory helps ensure the proper storage of product to facilitate inspection and prevent contamination of the area.  Following FDA guidelines, warehouses using WMS can track and trace pharma inventory and lot status.

Because different drugs have different mandated storage conditions in terms of temperature, lighting and humidity, using the latest technology can be invaluable.  Climate controlled space, product monitoring devices and other technology can help ensure product safety and ensure the efficacy intended.

Another challenge that a WMS can handle is the archive of inventory product documentation.  Items including photos, video and certifications (Certificate of Authenticity, etc.) can be stored within most warehouse management systems for easy retrieval and use.

Warehouse management systems can provide visibility into inventory levels, inventory turnover, allocation of inventory, components or packaging, critical to the daily and ongoing operation of warehouse and manufacturing facilities.

Conclusion:

With the rising cost of prescription drugs and mechanisms of pricing by pharmaceutical manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry is facing uncertain times and challenges.  From the availability and cost of prescription drugs for rare diseases and debilitating conditions to the new range of medical devices, the pharmaceutical industry needs to use technology to help keep warehouse costs under control.

With research and development and clinical trial costs spiraling out of control, the pharmaceutical industry needs to pay more attention to its supply chain and the proper warehousing of prescription drugs and medical devices.  Doing so will help prevent lapses in product safety, more efficient product recalls and greater visibility for all concerned.

About the Author:

Laura Olson

Director of Sales and Marketing, Datex

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