How Supply Chain Visibility Can Change the Face of Clinical Trials

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HOW SUPPLY CHAIN VISIBILITY CAN CHANGE THE FACE OF CLINICAL TRIALS October 2012

When it comes to clinical trials, many pharmaceutical companies seem to be lacking something. Opportunities to make financial and time saving benefits are not being taken. And yet easy to initiate solutions are now available that can affect genuine change. Often discussed but rarely seen in action, clinical trials supply chain visibility looks set to significantly improve the entire clinical trials process. Everything from overcoming forecasting challenges and dealing with regulatory complexity, right through to enhancing the returns process will be affected for the better. When it comes to supply chains, information truly is power.

Greater access to more reliable data through the use of visibility tools stands to benefit all of the numerous stakeholders involved in clinical trials. These advantages will be felt far beyond those in supply chain roles alone. At present though, investment in such tools is relatively rare, even when their benefits are well known amongst clinical trials professionals. This stems from an acceptance of limitations of current solutions, a perceived lack of feasibility or perceived high cost. Having the foresight to invest in the proper visibility of every aspect of a clinical supply chain can make an impact on time-to-market, on cost savings and on efficiency too.

About this report
This report was commissioned by DHL Supply Chain, with original research undertaken by FreshMinds, an independent research agency in autumn 2011. In depth qualitative interviews were carried out with seven external clinical supply chain experts and six internal DHL experts. All external experts have anonymised titles that closely match their role, whereas DHL experts are named. For further information on any aspect of this report, please contact DHL using the details provided at the end of the report.

One of the most serious is the loss of supply chain agility; an inability to quickly respond to supply or demand shifts. These shifts are especially difficult to deal with when stock has already been allocated to another location or is not suitably labelled or packaged for redistribution. At a higher level, these logistical issues make it all the more difficult to reduce cost and time to market. So rather than lean and agile, supply chains can very quickly become bloated and inefficient.

Knowing this, these groups will often opt not to work closely with each other when it comes to planning and forecasting at the beginning of or throughout the course of trials. Learnings from previous trials aren’t available early enough to be taken into consideration. In fact in many cases, these learnings aren’t available until the completion of a trial, by which time the sponsor or investigator site may have commenced work on several further trials. “We rely a lot on our CRAs and CROs to give us feedback, but that part doesn’t work because we don’t get that feedback until the end of study.” Director, Clinical Research Operations, Top 20 Pharmaceutical Company

“The old saying that information is power is very true. You can’t do anything unless you’ve got the information and the more accurate that information is the better you can actually work.” Associate Director of Clinical Trials and Supplies, Top 30 Pharmaceutical Company

Poor quality data limits the ability to compare forecasts to actual consumption of stock, thus potentially resulting in over or under supply and reducing the supply chain’s ability to react swiftly to changes in demand. “As soon as you show [people] that data can be aggregated in one place, then they then see the benefits of [...] what it could mean to [them].” Jonathan Blamey DHL, VP Product Development

3 key causative themes
Our research uncovered three key themes that have led to this prioritisation of availability over accuracy: Poor forecasting: Clinical trials forecasting is difficult, for a number of...
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