After the Storm comes the Calm? Optimising the Reverse Supply Chain

Niamh Madigan

As the clean-up operations continue after the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy – industries will be brushing themselves down and assessing how they survived the fiercest Hurricane  that the US East Coast has ever seen.

And as the globe now operates like a small country village, industries will also realise that the effects of the storm will not just be limited to the East coast of the US, as knock-on effects ripple through the rest of the world like small aftershocks.

It is in the face of such natural dramas, that we can sit down and reassess whether or not our organization is totally kitted out to deal with such disasters which can cost  millions, or worse, lives.

On Monday drugmakers from Washington, D.C., to Massachusetts closed nearly all their facilities and this continued though to Tuesday (AP).

While none of the companies reported disruptions in the supply of medicines that might affect patients or hospitals, the closures included numerous medicine factories and distribution centers.

While big pharma companies battened down the hatches in  New York and New Jersey, others faced the problem of airport closures. According to Reuters, GSK said it had implemented a continuity plan to ensure medicines would be distributed, given the numerous airport closures. The company also said there was sufficient inventory in the supply chain to avoid serious disruptions.

Relatively high amounts of pharmaceuticals move by air, as drugs are light and high-value items, meaning companies like GSK had to arrange road transportation as air transportation was unavailable.

Looking to clinical trial supply, Robert Bronstein, Director for Clinical Supply Chain at Macrogenics, spoke to Pharma IQ on Reverse Supply Chain on ways to move drugs from point A to point B, particularly if  there’s an adverse event like a natural disaster, which has the potential to stop the clinical trial, thus reversing the supply process to bring everything back into depots for reconciliation or for destruction. 

“I think every company hopes it doesn’t happen," Robert explains. " When you look at the number of drugs that go into phase-two and phase-three clinical trials, the number that actually succeed to become commercially viable products is very small. So, there are studies that end which need to have this whole process performed. To get 100% reconciliation of everything that you’ve produced and where it is around the world so that you can demonstrate that, there is in fact no lingering activity that utilises your drug, is a very complex process."

He concludes, "I see this as an area that needs some attention because it’s very costly to do and there are probably methods that can be implemented which will start to help in that reconciliation.”


Robert Bronstein will be speaking at the Clinical Trial Supply Conference in Basel, Switzerland, January 30-1, 2013.






Have Your Say
Rate this feature and give us your feedback in the comments section below