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Digitisation, collaboration to help pharma supply chain weather Covid-19 impact

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Pharmacist (Image credit: Reuters)

Sector must overcome capacity shortages to get supplies to patients worldwide

Stakeholders in the pharmaceutical supply chain are grappling with a growing gap between air cargo capacity and demand for lifesaving medical products, as flights are grounded and borders closed. Many African countries now report medicine shortages and challenges in securing costly imported pharmaceutical ingredients and medical equipment.

“Air freight capacity in Africa is reported to be down by 70% on what was available last year, even amid moves by regional airlines to repurpose passenger aircraft to close the supply–demand gap,” said Suzette Scheepers, CEO of Air Cargo Africa organisers Messe Muenchen South Africa.

“This echoes the situation around the world, where air cargo capacity has plummeted but demand for pharmaceuticals is spiking.”

The situation may be exacerbated in months to come as more non-pharmaceutical businesses return to production and compete for capacity, and airlines focus on the most lucrative lanes. Overcoming the disruptions of Covid-19 and the challenges of limited air cargo capacity will require collaboration, digitisation and innovation among all stakeholders in the pharmaceutical supply chain in the short to medium term.

This emerged during a Webinar entitled ‘The day after: how collaboration can prepare us for the impact after COVID-19’ presented by Pharma.Aero in partnership with STAT Times, who is a media partner to air cargo Africa.

Rita O’Sullivan, Head of Global Transportation at Zoetis, said during the Pharma.Aero webinar on Thursday: “The removal of 80% of passenger flights has had a significant impact on the pharma supply chain, with a knock on effect of increasing rates by between 200% and 500%. Reduced operations at sea and sea terminals have also increased lead time for customs clearance and handling, and non-pharma shipments not moving has added even more pressure.”

O’Sullivan noted that the pharma supply chain was a complex one, with thousands of nodes and lanes, and there was no one size fits all approach to cold chain and supply chain management.  

“A concern for us is there may be a pause on new initiatives and development; and that not all airlines/freight forwarders will make it through this troubled time, so a return to ‘normality’ will not be straightforward,” O’Sullivan said.

New solutions for a new environment

Jaisey Yip, Vice Chairman of Pharma.Aero and Head of Cargo and Logistics at Changi Airport, said: “Covid-19 has exposed pharma supply chain companies to unprecedented challenges and risk. We should be taking a community approach and holding hands to ensure that life-saving medical supplies are safely and reliably transported from point to point.”

Digital technologies offer some solutions, said Ruud Van der Geer, Assistant Director Global Delivery Strategy Team at MSD. “Digitisation of visibility, detectability and control has never been more important,” he said, noting that MSD had last year embarked on a cloud-enabled digital logistics programme which had proved invaluable in managing distribution during the pandemic. “We incorporated data connectivity, real time shipping conditions sensors, end to end track and trace, proactive alerts and notifications, and predictive analytics and AI. 

We also built in some insights to help us through this situation – tracking Covid-19 outbreaks, port and airport disruptions, average port dwell times, and Covid-19 trends per market. This enabled us to stop and reroute shipments, and support decisions on relocating critical products,” he said. “The next step is to move forward with the programme to move beyond a hypercare state to a more sustainable model.”

Also Read: COVID-19 Testing: Aliko Dangote Foundation engages 54gene Laboratory

Innovative approaches can also help the sector address the challenges of reduced capacity and increasing cost, said Cihan Likogullari, Global Key Account Manager at Envirotainer. He cited examples of Envirotainer container optimisation which helped customers fit up to 35% more cargo onto each aircraft, and reduce losses due to temperature fluctuations in the cold chain. “We are all being pushed to do things in new ways, the only way to do it is through flexibility and collaboration,” he said.

“Air cargo is critical in the global fight against Covid-19. We need to maintain global supply chain quality standards in a reshaped landscape. Non normal operations require a robust safety risk assessment and implementation of mitigations; we need to reinforce globally harmonised standards and the consistent implementation of these,” said Andrea Gruber, Head Special Cargo at International Air Transport Association (IATA). “We need to accelerate digitisation and data sharing standards. We need to take a coordinated, constructive approach and introduce adaptive policies.” 

Pharma supply chain challenges, solutions and opportunities will come under discussion at the 6th edition of air cargo Africa 2021, to be presented by Messe Muenchen South Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre from February 9 – 11, 2021. For more information, and to reserve exhibition space

Visit Air Cargo Africa

Health

mPharma acquires majority stake in HealthPlus

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mPharma, Africa’s leading patient-centered technology-driven healthcare company, has acquired the majority stake in HealthPlus, the leading pharmacy chain in Nigeria. mPharma and the former investor, Alta Semper, have signed an agreement leading to the acquisition of a majority stake in the HealthPlus Group.

According to the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of mPharma, Gregory Rockson, the acquisition is in line with the company’s mission to build an Africa that is in good health by delivering life-changing healthcare services and drugs to improve health outcomes for patients. He stated that the acquisition of the HealthPlus Pharmacy chain by mPharma complements mPharma’s deep commitment to increasing patient access to affordable and quality healthcare in Nigeria.

“mPharma is deepening its long-standing commitment to Africa by reimagining primary healthcare in some of the most vulnerable communities on the continent. We continue to transform community pharmacies into primary care centers to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to all patients so they can live not just longer but healthier lives. We are optimistic about the future of healthcare for Nigerians through the acquisition of HealthPlus.”, said Rockson.

In her remarks on the acquisition, Afsane Jetha, Co-founder and CEO at Alta Semper Capital, said: “We are delighted about HealthPlus’ partnership with mPharma. We have a strong conviction in mPharma’s strategy of revolutionizing primary care across Africa and believe mPharma is the ideal steward for HealthPlus’s next chapter of growth. We believe mPharma’s vision is consistent with that of HealthPlus’s shareholders and employees, and we are enthusiastic to support the business through a relationship with mPharma going forward”.

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While mPharma plans to continue to keep and strengthen HealthPlus as Nigeria’s leading pharmacy brand in Nigeria, the acquisition will also provide expansion opportunities for mPharma within Nigeria and a platform to expand mPharma’s mutti pharmacy retail footprint across the continent through its fast-growing QualityRx program. Powered by mPharma’s proprietary Bloom software, HealthPlus will provide patients access to affordable primary care services within its pharmacies, in addition to affordable and quality medications it currently retails across 12 states in Nigeria. The HealthPlus pharmacy chain will also launch mutti®, mPharma’s health membership program, which will provide both existing and new customers with discounts, interest-free “heal-now-pay-later” plans, free health screenings, and other primary care services.

By combining HealthPlus pharmacies with mPharma’s growing portfolio of partner mutti pharmacies and GoodHealth shops (PPMVs),mPharma’s network will grow from 224 to over 320 health facilities in Nigeria and will provide care to more than 100,000 Nigerians each month.

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Chantel Cooper: The Epitome of Empathy and Care

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Chantel Cooper, CEO of The Children’s Hospital Trust (Image: Supplied)

Chantel joined the Children’s Hospital Trust in 2013 as the Head of Fundraising and Communication and was appointed as CEO in 2019. For her, 2020 was a year that reinforced the importance of the core purpose of the Trust and the difference the organisation wants to make in the lives of children. “Our cause is driven by the need to make a difference in the lives of sick and injured children. We are people who work together to save the lives of the children who matter. We all have a purpose!” she says.

Sharing excerpts from her journey, Chantel says:

“My purpose in life is to serve those who are most vulnerable: women and children. My career was driven by my passion to make a real difference in the lives of women and children. When I was 18 years old, I volunteered for an organisation that provided support for women who had been raped. While volunteering, I started working with women in rural areas in the Eastern Cape where we found opportunities to grow their businesses.

“My passion for women led me to Cape Town where I became Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town when I was 27 years old. After the birth of my two children, I moved to an organisation called St Joseph’s Home for chronically Ill Children. St Joseph’s is a step-down facility for tertiary hospitals like the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. It was a profound move for me as I was able to work with children who inspired me.

“One of the most valuable lessons I learnt is the power of love. You can offer a child the best healthcare in the world, but what a child wants most is their parents to love them and be by their side. This is the value I most appreciate about the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and my past experiences. This hospital believes in child-centered care and knows that a child heals when their parent or caregiver is by their side – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. All other hospitals had restricted access to patients, but the presence of a parent is imperative to their sick or injured child’s healing.”

Overcoming Adversities

“The COVID-19 pandemic taught our team that life can change in a blink of an eye and that we need to be prepared for all possibilities. The pandemic hit the world with such speed and velocity that we had no choice but to find a way to not only sail through the storm but also find ways to get out of the situation stronger than before.”

Chantel also states that 2020 provided the Children’s Hospital Trust with the opportunity to learn extraordinary lessons that they would not have normally had the opportunity to learn and some of these include:

  • The value of deep listening and the importance of demonstrating kindness.
  • Working in collaboration created the opportunity for meaningful impact for our beneficiaries.
  • Opportunities do exist during challenging times; positivity exposed the opportunities.
  • Adapting to change during uncertain times helped to build a resilient team.

“Our Trust team demonstrated ingenuity, compassion, resilience, commitment, and fortitude during a very difficult time. As a result, we surpassed our goals, and this enabled our organisation to reach more children and families. We are grateful for the contribution from every individual,” adds Chantel.

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“Walking through the corridors of a children’s hospital during a crisis gave perspective on the real value of care, kindness, and collaboration. While children were not the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Social Work Department experienced first-hand the profound impact the pandemic had on children’s health and well-being.

“Unemployment, food insecurity, child safety and schooling were common concerns for many patients and their parents who entered the doors of the Hospital. The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital values patient and family-centred care which includes care for the whole family from a holistic perspective.

“In response to the needs of the families, the Trust secured funding to enable the social workers to provide additional counselling services and material support such as the provision of food, hygiene, and home-schooling supplies to vulnerable families when children were discharged from the Hospital.” Read more on the Family Care Project here.

Redefining Excellence

The core to achieving our vision is upholding our values of Integrity, Accountability, Kindness, Dynamism, and Collaboration in every aspect of our work. The Trust has a sound financial record in administration and good governance. For the past 28 years, we have raised funds to address many pressing needs, but much has yet to be done. With the help of many donors, we continue to give hope and healing to our little ones who need it most.

The Trust raises funds for the upgrade and expansion of the Hospital’s buildings, the purchase of state-of-the-art medical equipment, and new medical treatment projects and funds the training of medical professionals across Africa – ensuring that the Hospital not only retains its world-class stature but is able to continue providing life-changing and life-saving care for children.

The Trust relies on donations to fund these needs. When you donate to the Trust, 100% of your donation goes towards funding projects that change children’s lives (and the lives of the people who love them). The operational costs of the Trust are funded from an endowment, so your generous contributions are never used to cover administration costs.

Donate to the Children’s Hospital Trust today! www.childrenshospitaltrust.org.za

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SpecSMART Opens Optometry Clinic, Promises World Class Eye Care

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SpecSMART, a world-class optometry clinic has opened its store in Lagos, the commercial hub of the country, promising to deliver high-quality optometry services comprising primary eye care, premium quality frames, lens variants, contact lens fitting, and optical/ophthalmic services to Nigerians, for patients seeking effective healthcare.

The clinic with the United Kingdom standard which debuted on Wednesday, 17th August, 2022 was unveiled at the Ikoyi Plaza Mall, Awolowo Road, in Ikoyi, Lagos, to cater to the over 50 million people requiring eye care that has become almost exclusive for the few in the country.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr. Clarence Nwokocha, Practice Head and Medical Director, SpecSMART, said quality eye care is one of the key areas of healthcare and that the gap in the services has prompted the launch of the first-class clinic which was launched to meet the demand while ensuring the overall well-being of the patient and expectations that are fully guaranteed.

Dr. Nwokocha pointed out that with the unveiling of SpecSMART, patients would be able to have access to over 1,000 premium frames, contact lens fitting with sales and after-sales service, as well as international and designer sunglasses of a high standard at affordable prices.

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He said SpecSMART will ensure on-the-spot glazing of spectacle prescriptions for standard lens prescriptions, fully automated quality eye examinations, full glaucoma care services, free registration for patients, world-class medical suite using automated digital equipment, and delivering a wide and comprehensive range of tests every day of the week, for flexibility of appointments.

The Medical Director stated that lots of Nigerians complain that they don’t get the type of customer service they need, the prescription of frames, type of eye care required, and we are here as a UK standard clinic to offer them the best treatment in line with global best practices.

“We are working towards opening another branch at the Lekki and Ikeja districts of Lagos State, to effectively provide our high standard services to Nigerians that desire quality eye care services. 

According to him, there will be 24 hours automated appointment scheduler via the clinic’s website platform, 12-hour online customer care service, and eye care plans according to customers’ budgets and preferences, from skilled, licensed optometrists that would guarantee top-notched optometric and optical services to achieve accurate diagnoses.

With the unveiling of SpecSMART, patients seeking eye care treatment outside the country and within would now have access to excellent services in line with global best practices, as the clinic would also be extended to other parts of the country to meet the dire needs of patients.

Against this backdrop, the World Health Organisation (WHO) at the 74th World Health Assembly in 2021 pointed out that more than 800 million people in the globe have eye defects that could be addressed with the appropriate pair of spectacles, while an estimated 100 million people have moderate-to-severe distance vision impairment or blindness that could be corrected through access to cataract surgery.

It posits that to ameliorate the situation, there is a need for the provision of quality eye care services for underserved populations.

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