Wholesale Supply Channels Addressing the Pandemic

Web Exclusives —April 9, 2020


Tommy Pourmahram
Vice President, Specialty Provider, McKesson
Barry Fortner, PhD
President, Specialty Physician Services, AmerisourceBergen

Turning from the provision of care to the provision of therapies and essential personal protective equipment (PPE), Mr Pourmahram and Dr Fortner focused on the wholesale supply chain and the challenges of ensuring an uninterrupted flow of crucial materials to areas with the greatest demand.

Mr Pourmahram announced 3 initiatives that McKesson has undertaken to secure the wholesale supply chain. The first is Project Airbridge, a venture between the federal government and healthcare distributors, and the major focus of McKesson’s efforts to expedite critical medical supplies to teams on the ground over the next 30 days.

The goal of this project is to ensure supplies and medicine reach those areas where they are needed most and to distribute them on the ground. Last week, the first flight successfully distributed gowns, gloves, and masks in New York City, said Mr Pourmahram.

McKesson has also set up a global task force to protect the supply chain. Working with Canadian, European, and worldwide suppliers, they assessed needs and supplies and solicited guidance from clinical teams to ensure that they understood what was happening on a global scale. Based on their findings, they increased the production and inventory of certain drugs and supplies, and improved monitoring procedures to prevent panic-buying. Mr Pourmahram said that although the situation remains fluid, no supply issues are currently evident in this space.

Finally, McKesson put together a legislative team to work with the federal administration on potential actions to help providers. In addition, the team will ensure that its customers and providers are current on the stimulus packages and how they can benefit from them. They have implemented changes with manufacturers and industry partners on the back end, including establishing new payment plans to ensure continued access for providers and practices.

According to Mr Fortner, practices that AmerisourceBergen is servicing, like the rest of the world, are trying to navigate dramatically new circumstances, and the company is trying to help them in those efforts. But, he said, their first responsibility remains providing a safe supply chain for oncology pharmaceuticals.

In response to the pandemic crisis, AmerisourceBergen quickly adapted its distribution plans with multiple redundancies built in to ensure against disruptions.

“The foundational oncology pharmaceutical space has not seen major disruptions to date, other than the pharmaceutical shortages we were managing prior to the crisis, and now those precipitated by COVID-19, such as for hydroxychloroquine,” Dr Fortner said.

AmerisourceBergen continues to use its fair-share allocations program, which creates safeguards on high-demand drugs to ensure availability, and the company is working with customers to keep them informed of drug supply levels and to help them manage inventories and maximize availability across the community of providers.

Although they do not directly supply PPE, AmerisourceBergen is also trying to combat the shortage of N95 masks and other equipment by sourcing producers overseas, and it is committed to fair pricing for the provision of these critical supplies. AmerisourceBergen is also exerting tremendous effort on sourcing coronavirus test kits. Rapid-result kits are essential, and this is a dynamic situation, said Dr Fortner.

He added that although advocacy has always been part of the company’s mission, it has never witnessed a greater need for its contributions and plans to work closely with oncology partners to push for favorable federal legislation in phase 4 of the financial relief efforts.

“The only way we beat this pandemic is by the domestic and international medical community working together,” Dr Fortner concluded.

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Last modified: August 10, 2023

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