Tony Cordrey, vice president of European Strategic Operations Accord Healthcare, stresses the importance of ensuring consistency and continuity in medicines supply
There are few industries where consistency and continuity of service are of as paramount importance as they are in the manufacture and supply of medicines. In addition to ensuring that every medicine that leaves our plant meets our high quality and efficacy standards, we are also driven to maintain supply, to the best of our ability, in all conditions.
As an industry, we are always facing challenges. These range from the increase in ageing population leading to higher demand, API supply issues from third parties in China and beyond, to uncertainties in the UK regarding the supply of goods resulting from Brexit. Not to mention the elements that you simply can’t foresee, such as a fire in the plant or flooding. It is not a matter of inconvenience; disruptions in supply could have serious consequences for patients. As we supply one in five of the UK’s generic medicines, we have to be prepared to deliver against all odds.
Despite the ambiguities of Brexit, it is vital that the pharmaceutical industry continues to invest in the UK and Europe. When we acquired Actavis UK and Ireland after the referendum in 2016, we strengthened our continuity planning capabilities with the plant in Barnstaple, Devon, giving us a back-up to our site in India.
The following year, we revitalised a closed manufacturing plant in Fawdon, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to produce new and differentiated products, and at the same time increase our capacity through additional production lines. Having a network of plants increases confidence to be able to maintain supply even if one site is taken out.
It is obviously not enough just to have reliability in the manufacture of medicines, if they can’t be delivered to the pharmacist quickly to meet demand. We have always had a strong distribution network through our partnership with DHL. However, our recent venture into an owned storage facility in Didcot, Oxfordshire, has given us unprecedented Accord-owned storage of ambient, chilled and controlled drugs all under one roof. More than that we have invested in high-tech automation that counts and brings the product to the picker.
Not only is this faster and more efficient; it ensures that orders are right first time and customers are not burdened with the task of counting stock. Pharmacists can be reassured that they have exactly what they ordered and can get on with a more pressing priority of looking after patients.
The UK is a core market for us, but we operate in 80 countries around the world and it is critical that we are prepared to meet those challenges in every market. We have created holding points across markets to move products around as needed as well as be able to repackage products in markets to cover local supply issues.
Ultimately, we operate in uncertain times, but with strategic investments, planning and passion we can be certain that we are prepared to rise to any challenge.