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.”
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
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AstraZeneca launches Africa Health Innovation Hub to increase access to healthcare
AstraZeneca, a leading global pharmaceutical company, launched the Africa Health Innovation Hub today. This ground-breaking initiative highlights the company’s commitment to healthcare equity and fostering partnerships with a range of stakeholders, including governments, healthcare societies, academia, healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups, to better improve patient outcomes. Building on AstraZeneca’s work in Africa, the hub aims to use the latest science and technology to improve access to healthcare for patients on the continent.
The Africa Health Innovation Hub is the latest in the global A. Catalyst Network, a connected array of over 20 hubs worldwide. This network seeks to tackle current healthcare challenges through collaborative innovation, promote affordable and equitable healthcare access, and amplify patient-centred innovation through strategic alliances within the healthcare ecosystem.
Last year, AstraZeneca joined the WEF Edison Alliance, a public-private partnership that aims to improve the lives of 1 billion people through digital inclusion by 2025. The partnership reinforces our commitment to harnessing digital innovation to drive inclusion and equity across the healthcare ecosystem, therefore, will also be a strong facilitator of the Africa Hub.
Gagan Singh, Country President, African Cluster, AstraZeneca, stated, “AstraZeneca aims to strengthen and future-proof health systems across the whole patient journey, ensuring everyone has equitable and affordable access to the life-changing healthcare solutions they need, regardless of where they live. The launch of the Africa Health Innovation Hub is a significant step in our goal to unlock digital transformation and innovation in health across the continent, paving the way for patient-centric digital health solutions that leave no one behind. By working with partners across the continent, we are nurturing local talent and making quality health care more accessible for all.”
Partnering to bring our purpose to life
In Africa, two major new partnerships will form the backbone of the Hub in its initial phases:
- In South Africa, AstraZeneca is partnering with MEDSOL AI SOLUTIONS to help promote the use of AI in the detection of disease through a state-of-the-art Wi-Fi ultrasound probe that can detect breast cancer in seconds. The Melusi Breast AI rapid detection app will be rolled out in rural clinics to help in early detection of the disease, supported by a dedicated referral system so that women with positive detection of breast cancer can be offered a quicker turnaround time for therapeutic intervention.
Dr Kathryn Malherbe (PhD), CEO & Founder of MedSol AI Solutions said, “Medsol AI is excited to be leading one of the inaugural projects of the Africa Innovation Hub, with support from AstraZeneca. Breast cancer is a devastating disease, with many women in our communities only able to access late-stage diagnoses. The Melusi Breast AI project will enable us to leverage technology and innovation to improve early diagnostic detection rates and patient outcomes in local clinics, ultimately saving lives.”
- In Kenya, the company is expanding an already successful collaboration with Tricog Health Limited. After a few years of piloting an AI technology that connects ACS patients to health professionals and route them to the appropriate facilities, enabling early cardio-renal complications to be addressed in India, the African hub aims to enhance early diagnosis and treatment of Heart Failure using Tricog’s InstaECG AI tools for rapid diagnosis, reducing mortality rates and improving quality of life.
Dr. Charit Bhograj, CEO & Founder Tricog Health Limited added, “non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, are on the rise in Kenya and across Africa, and we know that the earlier these conditions are diagnosed, the better chance it is for patients to continue to live long healthy lives. By investing in digital health technology, the Africa Health Innovation Hub is enabling the use of advanced AI to screen and diagnose patients remotely, bringing high-quality health tools to people no matter where they live.”
Another partnership initiated last year and will officially form part of the Africa Health Innovation Hub is the Fuel Africa programme, launched by Futurize. This is the largest healthcare entrepreneurship programme on the continent, bringing together the brightest minds across universities in Sub-Saharan Africa to address some of Africa’s most pressing challenges in healthcare. For the second year in a row, AstraZeneca’s A. Catalyst Network partnered with Futurize to reinforce our strong commitment to fostering innovation in the continent by developing local talents.
Official kick off to AstraZeneca’s health innovation hub in Africa
The official launch event – which marked the launch of the hub and the kick off of the Medsol AI partnership – took place at the Daspoort Poli Clinic in Pretoria, South Africa, where healthcare practitioners were able to demonstrate the use of the Melusi Breast AI device in a community clinic setting, which is one of the first points of contact for clinical breast examinations and breast cancer screening for patients.
The Africa Health Innovation Hub will also invest in building local talent, promote policy change for cancer screening, close the gaps in healthcare access and improve the quality of life for patients in the African region, particularly in rural and underserved communities. These objectives are aligned with the four pillars of AstraZeneca’s A. Catalyst Network: Education and Awareness, Early Diagnosis and Referral, Connectivity and Technology, and Data Generation.
aYo Zambia launches Family Cover in response to ‘overwhelming’ demand
aYo Zambia CEO, Andrew Nkolola
microinsurer aYo Zambia has has just launched Family Cover, which allows Zambians to get hospital and life cover for themselves as well as their direct and extended families without filling in a single form. The new product will also see all premiums collected (and claims paid) via the MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) platform. Until now, aYo has offered hospital and life cover to individuals only through two insurance products, ‘Send with Care’ and ‘Recharge with Care’. But a growing market demand for insurance for the whole family prompted the company to create the new Family Cover product, which allows policy holders to add up to seven people, including themselves.
“As of today, we have had over 3.5 million customers purchase cover to protect themselves for hospitalisation in the event of illness or injury, or loss of life,” said aYo Zambia CEO Andrew Nkolola. “But many of our customers have been asking us: ‘How will we safeguard our children and families if something happens to them? We don’t want benefits only when something happens to us.’ We realised it was a huge gap in the market and have responded accordingly.”
As with aYo’s existing products, Family Cover customers must maintain active Mobile Money (MoMo) accounts to pay premiums and claim. This will allow them to insure up to three other family members per benefit, for a total of seven people. Family Cover allows policyholders to add extended family as well as direct relatives between the ages of 1 and 69.
Customers can enrol family members by dialling the USSD code *296* and selecting the Family cover option to enrol and manage cover. As with ‘Send with Care’ and ‘Recharge with Care’, valid Family Cover claims are paid directly to the claimant’s mobile money wallet without any hassles.
aYo was recognised as the Most Innovative Ecommerce Product in Zambia by the Institute of Finance and Economics in October, and followed that up in November with three awards at the Pensions and Insurance Authority Industry awards: Microinsurance product of the year, Best Customer Centric Experience, and Product and Service Innovation of the Year.
“The market perception of insurance in general is changing. Today, every Zambian consumer can purchase insurance on the go, using their mobile phones. Offerings like Family Cover provide a much-needed social safety net that helps vulnerable people and particularly people with low incomes to stay afloat when the unexpected happens,” said Nkolola.
mPharma acquires majority stake in HealthPlus
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”.
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.