GAO outlines 4 steps to improving US medical supply chain

The Government Accountability office released a report this week making 15 recommendations for how the U.S. government can improve its COVID-19 pandemic response. 

Four supply chain recommendations from the report:

  1. The assistant secretary for preparedness and response, who oversees the Strategic National Stockpile, should develop and document plans to restructure the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise, a group of experts that advise the HHS in how to procure and use medical supplies from the national stockpile. 

    Government officials have expressed concerns over a lack of clarity on how the preparedness and response secretary makes decisions on the national stockpile's inventory, the GAO said. The office recommended the plans describe how the secretary will ensure a transparent and deliberative process and make sure sensitive information is protected. HHS agreed with the recommendation.

  2. The assistant secretary for preparedness and response should implement records management practices that include developing, maintaining and securing documentation related to the enterprise's activities and deliberations, including those related to the national stockpile. HHS agreed with the recommendation.

  3. To strengthen the current procedures for the national stockpile, HHS should update its policies and procedures for the stockpile, including related control and monitoring activities; document the direct shipment procurement process; and address payment integrity risks. HHS did not fully agree with this recommendation, but said it would document the direct shipment procurement process, the GAO said.

  4. The GAO previously recommended that HHS develop a process for engaging with manufacturing industry stakeholders and Congress to develop a supply chain strategy for pandemic preparedness, including for the role of the national stockpile.

    Multiple stakeholders representing manufacturers, distributors and other purchasers told the GAO that federal engagement could enhance the resilience of the domestic supply chain and help ramp up private investment in domestic manufacturing.

    While HHS generally agreed with the recommendation in January, as of May it hadn't implemented it. The GAO said it is continuing to recommend HHS engage with stakeholders to obtain their business and industry expertise and collaborate with Congress to develop strategies to build a sustainable domestic medical supply manufacturing base. 

Find the full GAO report here


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