By Rob Wright
Do you know who’s touching your stuff? This was the question posed by Charles Forsaith to an invite-only audience during a recent Marken-sponsored roundtable discussion. Forsaith, a 20- year law enforcement veteran and former U.S. military security operations director, functions as the supply chain security director for Purdue Pharma — makers of the opioid pain reliever OxyContin (oxycodone). A schedule II narcotic, OxyContin has proven to be a highly effective painkiller — retailing for around $6 to $12 legally. But in addition to it being effective, the drug has been shown to be somewhat addictive, leading to abuse and target for theft, commanding prices of $50 to $80 on the street. Forsaith and other logistics professionals have a tough job (keeping their company’s supply chains secure), one which often takes a back seat to industry headlines focused on R&D developments, FDA recalls, and quarterly earnings. But the shipping of drugs is often the second largest cost incurred by pharmaceutical companies, with R&D being first. This is why Marken, a pharmaceutical and life science supply chain service provider, brought together a number of key opinion leaders, including Forsaith, to discuss supply chain security, regulatory compliance, and best shipping practices in conjunction with the grand opening of their newest depot in Farmingdale, NY. Believe it or not, the safe handling and security of drugs may be the difference between life and death for you or a loved one. Here’s why.
Game Changing Thefts
In 2009, Novo Nordisk reported the theft of an $11 million truckload of insulin. Unfortunately, the hijacked insulin made its way back into the legal supply chain, being dispensed by pharmacies, including Kroger, to unsuspecting patients. Because the drug was not properly stored under strict temperature controls following the theft, the insulin was no longer effective. One patient in Ohio went into convulsions immediately after administering an injection. Forsaith points out that the cost to Novo Nordisk was greater than the reported $11 million, because the company had to recall other shipments which included the same lot numbers as the stolen batch. In addition, consumers may have lost trust in the Novo brand, switching to another insulin manufacturer. Just one year later, Eli Lilly’s Enfield, CT, warehouse was burglarized. In a theft which lasted five hours, two brothers made off with an estimated $80 million worth of prescription drugs. Forsaith highlighted these two incidents as being game changing for the pharmaceutical industry. In the case of Lilly, it highlighted the need for greater precautions around warehouse security. In the case of Novo Nordisk, Forsaith asks, “Why spend millions of dollars to develop drugs, and then we turn them over to a truck driver making $25/hour, failing to capture critical information, such as the driver’s name.” According to Forsaith, companies need to place the same level of importance on “Who touches your stuff” as is paid to complying with regulatory guidance.
The Importance Of Supply Chain Strategic Partnering
Prior to departing to see Marken’s new depot, other presentations included a discussion led by Bruce Guenter, global clinical supply chain director for Pfizer. Guenter admits that his company is looking to outsource more to shippers. Though cost is an important consideration, he places a high priority on companies which can provide data in support of their claims, are financially stable, able to mitigate risk, and provide access to senior management. This message was not lost on Marken CEO, Wes Wheeler, who toured the new depot fielding questions along with members of his team from representatives from AAIPharma, Bristol-Myers Squibb, J&J, and Novartis, just to name a few. As the toured concluded, Aptuit’s CEO, Tim Tyson, introduced himself to me. We began discussing the importance of logistics and strategic partnering. In a private discussion, Tyson relayed a story regarding the importance he places on his logistics strategic partners. In 2010, the eruption of an Icelandic volcano brought European aviation to a near–standstill. Aptuit had a critical shipment, which needed to be delivered to France. According to Tyson, Marken employees realized the critical nature of the shipment and the important role their company played in Aptuit’s success. Tyson didn’t get a phone call listing the excuses of why it couldn’t be delivered. The shipment was delivered on time without much fanfare. It wasn’t until later that Tyson found out that an employee for Marken took the initiative to personally courier the shipment across the EU. Tyson stated, “A lot of companies talk a good game when it comes to strategic partnering, but the proof is how they deliver, especially under adverse conditions.”