We want patients in low- and middle-income countries to have fast, safe and affordable access to medicines. Efficient supply chain management is key to accomplishing this, as is support for local manufacturing in line with our high standards.
Efficient supply chain management
Efficient supply chains ensure that patients can be treated quickly and safely. Moreover, they incur lower costs. Our policies and procedures help to ensure that appropriate quantities of our products are delivered in the right condition, at the right place, and on time.
Together with our partners, we endeavor to improve supply chains in developing countries:
- We are a member of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Supply Chain Forum. This public-private partnership works to ensure a good end-to-end supply chain, which in turn will guarantee that the medicines reach the people who need them. Forum members include the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the logistics firm DHL, and six leading pharmaceutical companies which run donation programs: Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, MSD, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Eisai.
- In the Rx-360 consortium, we are pursuing similar goals: to share best practices with other companies and partners on efficient, end-to-end secure supply chains.
- We are a founding member of the Accessibility Platform. This is an informal effort spearheaded by the private sector which aims to raise awareness of supply chain issues as part of the access to health challenge. It also seeks to increase knowledge sharing and information exchange through open, multi-stakeholder dialogue and identify opportunities for collective action.
Supporting local manufacturing
In our manufacturing plants in India and Indonesia, we produce various medicines for patients with diabetes, heart conditions and diseases of the lower respiratory tract. This allows us to supply medicines to local markets faster, as well as to neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Moreover, we can offer these drugs at considerably lower prices than in Europe.
Our pharmaceutical production plants operate to the same high standard of quality worldwide. We fully comply with the internationally harmonized guidelines set out in Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Good Distribution Practice (GDP). This also applies to contract manufacturers. Our uniform quality assurance system ensures that our quality standard is adhered to everywhere. It comprises training courses tailored to each site, quality control monitoring, and technology transfer. Our Global Response Team publishes the results of all audits conducted by health authorities across the Group, allowing the respective units to share lessons learned and benefit from one another’s improvements.
Through our Virtual Plant Teams, we provide our contract manufacturers with the support they need to comply with our quality standards. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, our external partners are each assigned a Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany production expert to act as a virtual site leader and provide guidance. Our Virtual Plant Teams were recognized as a best practice in the 2016 Access to Medicine Index.
Developing a cross-company database for medicinal products
To make medicines for neglected diseases reliably available in developing and emerging countries, we are working to improve supply chain management. In 2015 and 2016, we therefore collaborated with our partners in the Neglected Tropical Diseases Supply Chain Forum to develop a database to help achieve this goal. All forum members contribute information, which is used to assess the potential need for medicines in the relevant countries. We discuss, for example, which medicines have been ordered by WHO and which products have been supplied to which countries. This provides us with a comprehensive overview of the current distribution of medicines, thus allowing them to more quickly reach the areas where they are needed most.
Supporting regional vaccine manufacturers
We support vaccine manufacturers in developing and emerging countries. Together with the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN), we sponsor educational programs and pass on our knowledge to ensure the safe and high-quality production of vaccines. Since 2014, we have conducted more than 12 training sessions as well as a number of technical workshops in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, with eight seminars taking place in 2015 and 2016.
For this initiative, we were honored in the 2016 Access to Medicine Index.
Testing software for supply chain management
In the 2015-2016 period, we developed a software-based solution for northwestern Africa to ensure the continuous availability of our drugs, which has improved our inventory and order management. At any time, our customers can go to our e-shop to quickly and easily order medicines that have been approved by the respective regulatory authorities. The system makes demand more transparent while reducing lead time and miscommunication. After successfully testing the e-shop in Sudan and Ethiopia, we launched the platform in all northwestern African countries in 2015.