The Neglected Tropical Diseases Supply Chain Forum - Past, Present and Future
Established in 2012, the Neglected Tropical Diseases Supply Chain Forum (the "Forum") is a landmark public-private partnership of the following diverse players, each having an impact and voice in the supply chain of NTD medicine donations: the WHO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, six pharma donors (Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. Inc., Merck KGaA, and Pfizer), logistics partner DHL, and nongovernmental organizations - Children Without Worms, the International Trachoma Initiative, the Mectizan® Donation Program, and RTI International. Each partner brings its own specialized skills and expertise to the table to form a tour de force that fosters flexibility and responsiveness, and ultimately optimizes the impact of donated medicines. Implementing mass drug administration programs in remote regions of the world is a complex process fraught with hurdles that require logistical planning and a careful coordination from the people making the medicines to the people on the ground working hard to deliver them. All players must work together so medicines reach people safely, reliably and cost-effectively.
To meet country needs and ensure Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaigns are successful, NTD medicines must be available. Success of NTD supply chain depends on a sequence of activities performed in a synchronized fashion. The Forum works through considerations to improve each step in the “first mile” of the NTD medicine supply chain. It begins with the complicated process of planning and forecasting country needs for donated NTD medicines. Next steps include sourcing raw materials, manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), turning those into tablets, followed by packaging and shipping by sea, air or road to the recipient countries. The shipments undergo customs clearance at every point of entry. The “first mile” comes to an end with final delivery of NTD medicines to endemic countries. The “last mile” takes place on the ground of every country receiving NTD medicines from the Central Medical Stores. The shipments are then checked and allocated to areas of need and dispatched to hospitals, clinics, and health centers where packages are prepared to travel by whatever means needed - truck, motorbike, boat, or on foot - to reach patients.