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March 22, 2022updated 11 Jul 2022 1:54pm

Tested solutions to solve new challenges: breaking silos key in future proofing clinical trial supply chains

Data, proactively seeking innovation, and clear governance are key tools in future-proofing supply chains in clinical trials.

By Urtė Fultinavičiūtė

With the Covid-19 pandemic underscoring the importance of robust supply chains in clinical trials, a way to future proof these channels may be so obvious that it is easy to overlook. Better cooperation amongst all partners, including trial sponsors and contract research organisations (CRO), is critical to prevent future disruptions in the supply chain, says Paula Pulsoni, senior director of clinical supply solutions at World Courier, a global specialty logistics provider.

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Disruptions should be seen as opportunities, Pulsoni tells Clinical Trials Arena. “But for us to see opportunities in the disruptions, we need to be ready,” she added. Pulsoni spoke today at Arena International’s Clinical Trial Supply Europe conference in Madrid.

Paula Pulsoni, senior director of clinical supply solutions at World Courier

There are tested approaches to future proofing clinical trial supply chains when partnerships are used to its full potential, the presentation shows. Using data, supply chains can be monitored and information can be passed across the supply chain. Also, proactively driving change and innovation allows players to find creative solutions to address issues. And finally, it’s critical to establish clear governance amongst all partners to maximise collaboration, develop clear communication channels, and gain alignment on strategic goals and success metrics.

Supply chain crisis as opportunity in clinical trials

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of environmental-related disruptions. There is opportunity to integrate sustainability into solutions, Pulsoni adds. By thinking in a greener way and incorporating this approach appropriately in the supply chain, it can help companies to be more efficient by not only reducing waste and cost, but also working against climate change, she notes. The environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework is one of the key themes the pharma sector is becoming more increasingly cognizant about.  

Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also help with logistic decisions. Investing in data solutions, sponsors can enhance the tracking of supply chain and forecast future trends. “In these times we are lucky that we access to data that helps as see and share visibility and improve such relationships for common goals,” Pulsoni adds.

Pandemic underscored opportunities in supply chains

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused mass disruptions in the supply chain. There are instances where investigational drugs were sent to different locations altogether, and clinical trials being put on hold or cancelled. Sponsors need to adapt trial designs to maintain continuity amid overloaded hospitals and stay-at-home orders.

There is the jump in uptake of remote drug delivery in clinical trials, but this rise caused many regulatory, logistical, and operational challenges, Pulsoni notes, however adding the industry found this to learn about scenario planning. Clinical Trials Arena previously reported that while the pandemic triggered a jump in direct-to-patient drug delivery in clinical trials, its use is still sluggish compared to other decentralised approaches. World Courier is a part of AmerisourceBergen.

Note: After the publication of this article, Pulsoni reached out to Clinical Trials Arena to add that better cooperation should not be just between trial sponsors and CROs but amongst all partners. Also, she detailed reasons why it is critical to establish clear governance among partners. In the context of the pandemic, sponsors should learn to adapt trial designs to maintain continuity amid overloaded hospitals and stay-at-home orders. These details have been added to the article accordingly.

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