Yesterday I decided to join a webinar hosted by an old friend Sabine VanderLinden who, with Shruthi Rao and Dr Andrée Bates were discussing issues in the Pharma industry relative to Covid 19.
Despite the intensity of the media coverage over the past months, it provided a refreshing different perspective on issues from a pharma supply chain point of view, discussing issues such as
- The impact of pharma manufacturing in China, India, Italy
- Excessive concentration of manufacturing – reliance on a handful of factories.
- Restrictions on exports
- Shortages of API’s – active pharmaceutical ingredients, with China providing 40% of the world’s key ingredients
- Disruption on packaging and distribution
- Issue of customer behaviour, typically stockpiling
- Illness within the drug manufacturers themselves
- Shortages of key supplies at the point of delivery.
It was super interesting and reminded me of the complexities of the supply chain, but one new concept jumped out at me, which was that of 3D drug printing. It was a term that I’d never heard before.
Principally the concept is that the API’s – the ingredients – are provided to the pharmacy and that drugs are specifically designed and created at an individual level, and created in the pharmacy itself. Of course, this doesn’t always help where there is a shortage of raw materials but the idea of bespoke drug creation was quite new to me.
In fairness it’s not really ‘drug printing’ but it’s a catchy title.
You can read more about the idea here.
From an insurance point of view, one of the real issues is that of the increasing cost of drugs relative to the relatively static nature of health insurance premiums. Even with increases, the premiums are still being outstripped by drug costs. Cutting out the ‘middle man’, i.e. the drug manufacturer by 3D design might help reduce health insurance premiums , but still doesn’t entirely manage the costs of the API’s themselves.
But it’s an interesting area to think about.