The pandemic has caused a great deal of turmoil to many different industries as they worked to cope with a completely new threat. It exposed some of the shortcomings in the healthcare industry as well.
One of those areas is the pharmacy supply chain. The pandemic made shortages even worse, inventory management more difficult, and compliance more complex.
This is not the first time pharmacists have had to deal with shortages, but the fragility of the supply chain in the face of the pandemic threatens to exacerbate the situation. To handle it, leaders in the pharmacy profession are recommending some guidelines for hospital pharmacies. Here are a few.
Record all the essential drugs and take inventory regularly.
Hospital pharmacists should generally know how often the drugs are used. If they need to keep track of inventory at several locations or consolidate it, digital technology, such as inventory management systems and distributed databases, can be used.
Determine alternative drugs that can be used.
When faced with a shortage, the pharmacist should know what can be substituted for the original drug. They should get approvals for these drugs before facing a crisis and line up vendors who can deliver them.
Generally, pharmacists use compounding when a drug is costly or not easily available. During the pandemic, pharmacists have had to balance an increased need for compounding against the reductions in the supply of drugs and equipment.
Moreover, using vendors to do the compounding has been more difficult because of the pandemic. If the hospital pharmacy does use a vendor, it should be aware of some important issues related to outsourcing during the pandemic.
For example, the pharmacist needs to often communicate with vendors and know what medications they have available and the guidelines they use to add new drugs to the contract. Also, hospitals need to be careful about using start-up vendors and should instead rely on well-established firms with a solid track record.
The pandemic has also made compliance more of a moving target. For example, the pandemic compelled the FDA and the USP to issue interim guidance on compounding during Covid-19.
Pharmacies need to focus on the basics
Although some compliance guidelines are evolving, others remain unchanged, which is what pharmacies need to focus on. For example, they need to ensure they comply with the official chapters of USP 795 and 797.
Pharmacies need to record any changes they have made in their practices because of the pandemic to satisfy regulatory bodies.
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