Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

COVID-19 has put a spotlight on health product supply chains, highlighting the challenges in multiple steps in the global supply chain. This paper seeks to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the supply chain of a subset of essential medicines. It identifies the main categories of blockages in the global supply chain created by COVID-19, then uses data on trade flows, wholesalers, and pharma companies, and from surveys, to track the impact.

There was significant short-term disruption to manufacturing caused by COVID-19. Surveys, pharmacy, and export data indicate that COVID-related disruptions impacted the supply of essential medicines, but this varied greatly by markets and product.

The paper highlights that (1) data-driven approaches should be considered to make supply chains more robust, (2) solutions must account for the political and institutional landscape, (3) price surges benefit the wealthiest, and (4) local solutions are often needed to manage global shocks.

More research is needed, particularly into how to obtain granular data to track supply shocks in real time? How do we increase surge capacity? Is it possible to improve procurement practices through pooled procurement, where applicable? And can pharmaceutical production be diversified, with products produced regionally to limit the risk of disruption?

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