The International Federation of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations has published what it calls “a business continuity planning paper” for global health care industries to minimise the impact of a future influenza pandemic.

The paper, which has been prepared by the IFPMA’s influenza vaccine supply international task force looks at planning in a number of key areas “to ensure organisations’ ability to continue essential activities in the event of a pandemic.” There is a section on ‘leadership and staff continuity’ which looks at maintaining decision-making and other functions, through measures such as determining the workforce critical for continued essential operations and identification of functions that can be performed from off-site.

The importance of operational continuity is stressed and “entire supply chains will have to be considered, so planning for critical products must address the issue of supplier and customer continuity,” the paper argues, “to ensure availability of raw materials and other production inputs, and to assure a functional distribution system.“ The paper concludes by noting the need to maintain ‘public health continuity,’ which will require “forecasting of volumes of all products needed both to protect both healthy and ill alike against the pandemic,” such as antivirals, vaccines, syringes, antibiotics, protective clothing and disinfectants.

IFPMA Director-General Harvey Bale said the pharmaceutical industry has a responsibility to prepare itself to continue key activities when the next influenza pandemic strikes and “realistic and thorough planning now can help companies to assure the continuity of production and distribution of essential medicines in the face of multiple challenges, including absent employees and difficult communications.”

He concluded that to effective, such planning “will have to embrace all parts of the supply chain, right up to the patient. The next pandemic could be just around the corner, so this planning needs to be done now.”