The Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain issues caused in part by the war in Ukraine have combined to create the perfect storm where increasing demand is being met with a shortage of everyday drugs. The problems have been compounded by delays and uncertainty around the introduction of new regulations, particularly in the European Union.
How drug manufacturers can tackle the shortages
To tackle the shortages, drug manufacturers need to invest more. They need to invest in smart connected factories and technology, use data more efficiently, redesign supply chains and focus on innovation. At the same time, they need to maintain and update current facilities to keep pace with changing legislation, which means they need professionals with the right technical and regulatory expertise.
Patients and healthcare professionals are starting to find everyday drugs harder to come by, so the urgency to resolve these issues is very real. There have been reports of shortages from the US, UK and EU to Mexico, Australia and many Asian countries. Common drugs from antibiotics such as amoxicillin to HRT treatments, ibuprofen and ADHD drugs have all been affected.
But with companies all over the world seeking to increase production, professionals with skills in the following are in short supply:
- Engineering and manufacturing
- Automation and data
- Quality Control and Assurance
- Regulatory Affairs
- Procurement and Supply Chain
And with the corruption of sensitive drugs during transit adding to drug shortages, expertise is needed in supply chain management to improve supply chains and reduce wastage during distribution of these important medicines.
Those that have traditionally favoured native speakers to work in their facilities are likely to find this too restrictive in a hot talent market and will need to widen the net.
Filling critical roles in a sector that is hungry for talent is challenging. Successful manufacturers are already focusing on the global talent pool to give them the best chance of finding the people they need. Those that have traditionally favoured native speakers to work in their facilities are likely to find this too restrictive in a hot talent market and will need to widen the net.
Investment in manufacturing technology is required to end drug shortages
While technology is part of the solution to ending drug shortages, we know from working with companies over many years that it also improves business performance. A recent Bain & Company briefing supports this view, saying “Pharma executives expect smart, connected factories to produce total savings of 20% or more, while improving quality and making deliveries more reliable. Specifically, they forecast a 17% reduction of costs related to poor quality, a 15% decline in the cost of converting raw materials into drugs and a 14% increase in delivery reliability.”
New technologies must go hand in hand with more efficient supply chains if we are to solve the problem of drug shortages.
When companies expand their manufacturing output, they must be careful to maintain their authorisation and quality standards, which is leading to increasing demand for expertise in these areas. This is also true of companies that expand through mergers and acquisitions and in the current environment we have seen a rise in M&A activity.
New technologies must go hand in hand with more efficient supply chains if we are to solve the problem of drug shortages. My own country of residence, Switzerland, is a European hotspot for drug manufacture thanks to its location, regulatory environment and standards of quality. I know only too well the impact of inefficient supply chains. If a delicate drug that requires constant temperature throughout the transportation process gets stuck unsupervised in customs somewhere,, that batch is then useless. That’s a problem for both consumers and manufacturers.
Higher salaries and rates are inevitable
There is a shortage of skills in many STEM fields, including life sciences, and the reason is that so many companies are simultaneously facing similar challenges, therefore, competing for similar talent. We often see multiple clients looking for very similar candidate profiles all at the same time. And this is where the competition for salaries and rates comes in. For companies, it’s all about optimisation at the moment, which goes hand-in-hand with the supply chain. They need the expertise to help them understand how they can use data and Blockchain to identify where they are going wrong, and how to fix it.
It is a very competitive market in which the candidates are increasingly dictating the outcome. Candidates are seeking more flexibility and are demanding premiums to work on location. And because demand for talent is so competitive some companies have not kept up to date with the rapid rise in pay in the sector and are not offering the competitive salaries or rates that the candidate-driven market is dictating.
The need for more skills to tackle the drug shortages coincides with workers from the baby boomer generation leaving the workforce. It’s important to retain their expertise and many companies are enticing them back on a more flexible, contract basis as consultants
The need for more skills to tackle the drug shortages coincides with workers from the baby boomer generation leaving the workforce. It’s important to retain their expertise and many companies are enticing them back on a more flexible, contract basis as consultants. Some prefer to take advantage of SThree’s Employed Contractor Model (ECM) whereby they are employed by us and enjoy the benefits of a permanent staff member and the flexibility of a contractor.
Contractors are one solution to tackling drug shortages
It’s a good time to be a contractor. You feel like you are in a beauty pageant because everybody wants you if you are good. It’s a small market. If you are good, everybody knows it and if you are not the same applies. This is also where our service comes into play because we check references and have a network on short notice because agility is paramount to ensure the services of the best available experts in the market. We can often provide companies with two or three profiles within 48 hours.
It’s a good time to be a contractor. You feel like you are in a beauty pageant because everybody wants you if you are good. It’s a small market. If you are good, everybody knows it and if you are not the same applies.
Among permanent staff, companies may also need to look at knowledge transfer programmes as baby boomers leave the labour market. It’s increasingly difficult to recruit the right talent and for many companies using a specialist recruiter would enable them to access a wide range of experts that they might otherwise struggle to find.
Optimising processes can improve market access to drugs
Despite the demand for life science professionals, some barriers to investing in increased drug production remain. In some regions the regulation of prices for everyday drugs is creating a disincentive for manufacturers to invest as the war in Ukraine keeps the price of everything high. Increased competition from the US, India and China are also disincentivising investment in Europe.
The European Medicines Agency says that the European medicines regulatory network is “working with pharmaceutical companies to resolve manufacturing and distribution issues.” Nevertheless, 13 European manufacturers and six generic drug industry associations surveyed by Reuters said that many firms are struggling to make enough money to justify making antibiotics – let alone increase production. So, which is more important, making a profit or ensuring that patients have access to the everyday drugs they need?
STEM professionals hold the key skills that are needed to solve these shortages, and drug manufacturers need their expertise now more than ever.
Regardless, we need to optimise and utilise smarter technology to tackle drug shortages. That means more efficient supply chains, developing smart manufacturing and using data to identify where how to make improvements. STEM professionals hold the key skills that are needed to solve these shortages, and drug manufacturers need their expertise now more than ever.
Learn more about SThree’s global brands recruiting right now for life science and manufacturing expertise.
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