Zebra Technologies Corporation has released the findings of its pharmaceutical supply chain vision study. It reveals patients’ distrust of the medications they are receiving and segments within the pharma supply chain, including the entities who manufacture, distribute, prescribe and dispense those drugs. Forty-three percent fear more illness and/or death could result from contaminated or tainted medications without supply chain improvements.
The study was conducted among a global audience of over 3,500 patients and pharma industry decision makers to evaluate perceived supply chain stability, gauge supply chain responsibility and trust in its entities, and identify needs for improving supply chain visibility and transparency.
Medication efficacy and safety are top of mind today with patients with three-in-four patients stating they are either somewhat or very concerned about the ineffectiveness of medication in helping with their condition or illness. Moreover, seven-in-10 are concerned about receiving an improper dose due to labelling errors, and the harm it could potentially cause them; stolen, contaminated, tainted, expired, or counterfeit medicines; and medications that were improperly handled/stored during transit and could have damaged or diminished efficacy.
Patients know a compromised supply chain puts medication quality and efficacy at risk and want better assurances that their medications are safe and authentic. Nine-in-10 say it is somewhat or very important that they can verify a medication is not counterfeit or tampered with, and confirm temperature-sensitive medications have stayed within the prescribed range.
According to the survey, patients also expect drug manufacturers to disclose how their medications are manufactured/handled (81 per cent) and transported/stored (82 per cent). Eighty per cent say it’s also important to verify the sources of medication ingredients including the country of origin and local standards for the medication itself. In addition, 79 per cent of those surveyed want to know the source of their medication is sustainable with confirmation the manufacturer is using techniques to protect the environment, animal welfare, human communities and public health.
“Investing on solutions that can track pharma products from raw materials to manufacturers to pharmacy is a top industry priority,” said Rajnish Gupta, Vice President and Head, India and Sub-Continent business, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific.
“With the right technology, it can help businesses to enhance quality, traceability and adherence to regulatory requirements. It can also help them safeguard their operations against future disruptions or new regulations, avoid eliminate fines and chargebacks for medications, and ultimately better protect patients.”
Over eight-in-10 patients agree government/regulatory agencies and pharma companies need to work better together to protect patients and ensure the medications they receive are safe and effective. In addition, more than 40 per cent of patients and pharma industry decision-makers say regulators, pharma companies and manufacturers are the ones most responsible for combatting counterfeit, stolen and contaminated medications. Yet, the onus is being put on those who manufacture, dispense and administer medications to implement trustworthy safety protocols, with hospitals bearing the brunt of the responsibility in 57 per cent of patients’ eyes.
The majority of pharma industry decision makers (84 per cent) feel they are prepared to comply with traceability and transparency mandates. Three-quarters confirm they have already deployed location services technology or plan to in the next year – a move which would improve production workflows and drug tracking, reduce shrink and tampering, and give patients the visibility and information they want.
The biggest challenge these leaders are facing is being able to make – and move – enough medications to meet patients’ needs. In addition to regulatory delays, industry decision makers say they are also dealing with production limits, distribution and storage problems, shipping capacity constraints and transportation delays. Consequently, 92 per cent plan to increase investments in pharma manufacturing and supply chain monitoring tools this year.
Over three-quarters of patients surveyed say they have experienced issues either purchasing or taking medication in the past, with millennials (82 per cent) remarkably reporting more issues than Boomers (61 per cent). Millennials don’t tolerate mistakes, though, and are twice as likely as Boomers to change pharmacies to find one that can meet their needs. Further, 70 per cent of all patients confirmed they have either changed prescribing providers, pharmacies or medications in the past due to a poor experience.
Among patients experiencing problems, a severe side effect was among the top five issues. However, it was not the most prevalent:
- Needed medication that was unavailable or out of stock (32 per cent)
- Received only a partial amount due to unavailability at the time (29 per cent)
- Found the same product at a lower price elsewhere (27 per cent)
- Did not receive on time or when needed (22 per cent)
- Experienced a severe side effect (21 per cent)
A majority of patients’ lingering concerns centre on medication affordability (76 per cent) and shortages (73 per cent). However, drug administrators are not off the hook for safety and efficacy. Eighty-five percent of patients say all pharmacies need to monitor the medications dispensed, including mail-order pharmacies.
In APAC, over three-quarters of patients say more regulation of pharmaceuticals is needed, and nearly all (95 per cent) decision makers say better cooperation between government/regulatory agencies and pharma companies is needed to protect patients, the highest of any region.
In Europe, only 64 per cent of patients and 74 per cent of industry decision-makers agree that direct-to-patient delivery of medications by mail is a convenient and consistently safe way to receive medications—the lowest agreement level among regions.
Besides, Latin American patients are the least tolerant of issues with their medications when compared to other regions, with 87 per cent reporting a change in pharmacy, provider or medication due to a poor experience.
Patients in North America are the least knowledgeable about pharma traceability, with only 33 per cent saying they are somewhat or very familiar with the concept.