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Managing and protecting the pharmaceutical supply chain


One-out-of-every-6 pharmaceutical products dispensed to U.S. patients travels through the Cardinal Health network. Through the company’s Pharmaceutical Distribution supply chain, Cardinal Health consolidates product orders from hundreds of manufacturers into pharmacy-specific deliveries for 33,000 retail, hospital and alternate-site locations.

Not resting on its laurels, the Cardinal Health distribution supply chain continues to focus on efforts to protect the supply chain and manage drug shortages.

Protecting the safety and security of the supply chain

Cardinal Health supports efforts to combat counterfeiting, contamination and adulteration of prescription drugs as it tries to guarantee a safe and reliable drug supply chain to ensure patient health and well-being. The pharmacy distributor is continually working to provide pharmacy owners with resources to ensure the drugs in the supply chain are safe by providing transaction data for eligible drugs online at no cost to pharmacy owners.

The company also works closely with manufacturers to collect appropriate data and ensure their ongoing compliance with the Under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).

As dispensers of prescription drugs, pharmacists and healthcare providers are required to adhere to strict guidelines for accepting ownership and keeping records of those products, including:

  • Trade only with authorized trading partners;

  • Have processes in place to identify suspect and illegitimate product;

  • Only accept ownership of a prescription drugs if the previous owner provides transaction data; and

  • Maintain transaction data for six years and be able to provide it upon request from the Food and Drug Administration or other federal or state official in the event of a recall or investigation.

Cardinal Health makes this transaction data for eligible prescription drugs purchased available online, and pharmacy owners may also enter into an agreement for Cardinal Health to maintain the transaction data on their behalf.

In addition, Cardinal Health provides a variety of cold chain packaging to meet geographic, environmental and transportation needs. The refrigerated totes and phase change panels help ensure that refrigerated pharmaceuticals have been maintained within the labeled storage temperature ranges during transportation.

The cold chain packaging keeps refrigerated product safe, maintaining a temperature of 2-8°C (36-46°F) regardless of the season or geography, and regardless of the amount of product shipped.

The tote program uses phase change panels that contain a USDA-registered, vegetable oil-based food product that is non-toxic, environmentally friendly and reusable. The product also has been recognized by the Healthcare Distribution Management Association with the 2012 HDMA Distribution Management Award and was selected by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals for the 2012 Supply Chain Innovation Award (2nd Place).

Managing drug shortages

Cardinal Health also is sensitive to the issues that result from the national drug shortage crisis. To help patients and pharmacies through shortages, Cardinal Health proactively manages available product and replenishes inventory when product is out of stock. Cardinal Health also works with manufacturers to get product availability information as soon as possible, so pharmacy owners can be notified.

Utilizing Order Express, the Cardinal Health online ordering site, pharmacy owners can review product availability reports, manage backorders and view the current inventory of product in the nearby primary Cardinal Health distribution center.

For all of these efforts in securing and managing the pharmacy supply chain, Cardinal Health has been named by Gartner Research as the No. 1 supply chain organization for four consecutive years. Cardinal Health also has received the Defense Logistics Award from the U.S. Department of Defense.

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