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Access and availability of medicines in India: A Call for Action!

Amit Backliwal | Co-Founder & CEO | May 22 2020 | Blog

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RECENT POSTS

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India is the world's third-largest pharmaceutical market globally in terms of volume.1 And yet, an estimated 50% of the population in India does not have regular access to essential medicines.2 Manufacturing the medicines that are needed in the market is only the first step towards providing quality healthcare for all. Getting these medicines to the patients who need them and at the right time is a complex logistical effort – one that can be the difference between life and death for many people.

Needless to say, then, that expanding healthcare access is a critical priority for public and private sector alike. And while many initiatives have been taken in this direction, a lot still needs to be done.

We believe that while not a cure-all, new business innovations can surely help improve the access and availability of medicines and healthcare products in a sustainable way and at scale. The lack of access to medicines is a result of many issues that include policies, manufacturing, regulatory frameworks and much more, however at the nerve centre of all these, are the chinks in the distribution system that undermine efforts to improve availability like:

  • Gaps in stock availability
  • Limited access to stockists by a retailer
  • Inadequate information on new drugs to retailers
  • Lack of visibility through the supply chains
  • Lack of last mile connect
  • Inefficiency of finance management in downstream value chain
  • Lack of distribution muscle among regional players

In an environment defined by changing patient expectations and new technologies, a radical overhaul of pharma supply chains is definitely long overdue. In light of the widespread implications of digital technologies on fragmented distribution systems, Pharma industry should fundamentally redefine its supply chain operations.

Connection is key

The number of supply chain partners (suppliers, contract manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and third-party logistics partners, retailers among others) is higher than ever before. A lack of integration across this supply chain network hinders with the access to healthcare products. Cloud-based networks like Pharmarack make it much easier to link all players through a single integrated network, even those with different IT architectures or ERP systems, thus making networks more scalable.

The Power of Automation

Pharma supply chains have traditionally been characterized by long lead times, manual ordering, lack of visibility of inventories and absence of any real-time data. All this stems from a lack of technology implementation at ground level. The digitization of sourcing and procurement processes changes how companies interact with their suppliers, and how the various levels of supply chain interact with each other. This can greatly reduce the complexity of pharma supply chains.

The Phygital supply chain

Ultimately technology and digitization are only enablers of an actual on-ground business. Organizations need physical movement of goods along the entire supply chain without compromising the efficacy and efficiency of the system. Retailers can get visibility of stock available with distributors, but having this information is only half a job done. The goal is to eventually deliver these drugs to the patients who need them and at the right time. For instance, Pharmarack does an effective job of creating a Phygital supply chain wherein the last mile deliveries between a distributor and retailer can be managed within 3 hours!

Endless opportunities through Fintech Solutions

India is land thriving with diverse traditional who are an essential part of the pharma supply chains. These small to medium scale distributors and retailers comprise up to xx% of the market. Managing a small business in this this highly complex industry can be very challenging indeed. As a distributor your business is fulfil your retailer’s orders, however reality dictates that you also have to manage many backend operations like order record, credit payments, reconciliations, and much more. And on top of it, there has to be enough appetite to accommodate for late payments and credits. This creates an unseen burden on the businesses that eventually undermines the agenda of creating availability of products – because let’s face it, running a business is tough anyway!

That’s where technology platforms come in. There are also tools that help you get support for supply chain financing to help your business optimize working capital.

In conclusion: Digitization has the potential to fundamentally transform pharma operations, opening the door to radical shifts in performance and capabilities. Pharma companies need to get started on this journey immediately, taking steps to digitize their operations and supply chains and develop a strategic road map for the next three to five years.

Those companies that seize the initiative can give themselves a sustainable competitive advantage; operate with greater agility, cost-efficiency, and control; and ultimately provide better healthcare access for patients.