From The Editor | May 20, 2014

AstraZeneca's Focus On Supply Chain: With Change Comes The Obligation To Respond

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By Trisha Gladd, editor, Pharmaceutical Online and BioProcess Online
Follow Me On Twitter @pharmaonline and @bioprocessol

Trisha Gladd

In 2013, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) reported that nearly half of U.S. households no longer use landline phones, a number that has continued to decline from 15 years ago when more than 96% of homes had wired phone service. Despite what could have been a devastating loss in business for both telemarketing and telephone companies, these industries have adjusted by investing in mobile marketing campaigns and, for telephone companies, new wireless service offerings. It is this type of response that allows a business to re-route and reconfigure in order to survive and thrive. With change comes the obligation to respond.

In the pharmaceutical industry, we have seen a number of changes over the last few years that have altered how companies operate and interact. Legislative changes, such as breakthrough therapy designation and other programs through the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), carry significant implications for the drug regulations process. On the commercial side, the rippling effects of the patent cliff, which won’t fully be known for almost another half decade, will have a significant financial impact on big pharma. While all of this has created a need for change and adaptation on several levels, one segment particularly affected by all of it is the pharmaceutical supply chain. What was once a steady churn of supply and demand that allowed companies to carry high inventory levels with no threat to consistently large margins is now a competitive marketplace requiring agility and flexibility. 

To understand the impact of this trend and learn how some of the industry’s biggest names are adjusting to the transformation, I recently spoke to supply chain experts from AstraZeneca, GSK, Novartis, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals to find out what they’re doing to successfully ride this wave of change into the future. The first of these conversations was with Mark Holder, executive director, North American regional supply chain at AstraZeneca, who talked about how this strategic reconfiguration has required AstraZeneca to leverage their infrastructure and integrate it in a key way that saves money.

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