How AmerisourceBergen adjusted operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Maia Anderson - Print  | 

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained the healthcare supply chain across the U.S. and resulted in shortages of critical drugs and medical supplies. 

In response, wholesalers and distributors of drugs and medical supplies have had to adjust their strategies to address the increased demand for supplies that could help treat COVID-19.

Erin Horvath, president of distribution services at AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest pharmaceutical distributors in the U.S., recently spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about how the company has shifted operations to respond to the pandemic. 

According to Ms. Horvath, the company is using what it calls "fair share allocation programs" to safeguard products in high demand and make sure customers don't overstock on a product because they're afraid of shortages. 

It has placed safeguards on drugs and supplies related to the care, treatment and prevention of COVID-19, such as inhalers, antivirals, antipyretics and isopropyl alcohol. 

In early March, the company increased its days on hand inventory for IV fluids, generic injectables and other acute care products in preparation for the coronavirus pandemic to worsen in the U.S. 

Ms. Horvath said increasing inventory at the distributor level rather than concentrating resources at one site of care maintains the pharmaceutical supply chain's flexibility and responsiveness. 

In each facility, the company is taking extra cleaning measures and not allowing noncritical vendors to enter, "to make sure there is nothing we are doing that could cause any additional strain on the system." 

While all of its facilities are still operational, the company has created some emergency plans in case of unexpected issues. Ms. Horvath said AmerisourceBergen has a list of employees in towns near every facility that have been briefed and trained and can be pulled in to keep warehouses operational in case of emergency. 

It also has procedures for transferring orders to an alternate distribution center if need be. Ms. Horvath said the company has drawn from lessons it learned while responding to other crises, such as hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

AmerisourceBergen also created a task force to coordinate its companywide response and communications involving COVID-19. 

Ms. Horvath said the company is not making projections now on how COVID-19 may affect its revenue.  

More articles on supply chain:
FEMA, HHS create supply chain task force
New coronavirus shortages: Thermometers, oxygen, ventilator therapists
Prisma Health creates device for ventilator-sharing: 4 things to know

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