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End-to-End Supply Chain Security to Protect People, Product and Brand: Challenges and Solutions
End-to-End Supply Chain Security to Protect People, Product and Brand: Challenges and Solutions

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30 October 2020

End-to-End Supply Chain Security to Protect People, Product and Brand: Challenges and Solutions

Risks experienced by the healthcare industry have led many regulatory agencies and governments to mandate requirements for protecting people, product, and brand through the whole lifecycle.

During this pandemic period, the all-important question is how to feed humanity and save lives? Or in other words, how to avoid either shortage or counterfeiting due to lockdowns and economic crisis?


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High-demand products that can sustain human lives are classified as those related to health and wellness such as: pharmaceutical, vaccines, medical devices, personal care, food and beverage. Usually such products are of high-value and their producers are large manufacturers operating and distributing worldwide.

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Therefore, they are belonging to long international supply chains, involving different players from the growers of main ingredients and raw materials to the production, packaging, distribution, to retailers and consumers. Unfortunately, these global high-value supply chains are first targeted by illicit traders and criminal organizations from one side and more disrupted by lockdowns from the other side. These later can be related to natural catastrophes/pandemic or any other political/economical/regulation policy that might occur with time.

 

Moreover, they are subject to high risks and threats, encountered from the digital ecosystem being in place to facilitate communication and transparency end to end. For example, the healthcare industry, e.g; pharmaceutics or hospitals, had experienced these risks, leading many regulatory agencies and governments to mandate many requirements for protecting people, product, and brand through the whole lifecycle. They are willing to spend $65 Billion on Cybersecurity as stated in a study from 2017 to 2021.[1]

 

But “Who” is attacking these modern and long supply chains?
Big criminal organizations can nowadays divert products, adulterate contents, modify packaging and sell them through unlawful channels of distribution. Patients are not sure if they are taking the genuine vaccine or an expired/falsified one that can damage their body until death. Gartner[2] had mentioned in its report about such cases where apparently no country is immune from the threats.

It is estimated that each year, more than 250,000 children with malaria or pneumonia, do not survive after treatment with fake and/or substandard drugs, not intended to be sold. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 1% to 10% of all medicines in low- and middle-income countries are estimated to be falsified. A recent study in Africa showed that up to 70% of medicines that counter infections in the region were fake.

 

The EU FMD and US FDA had established many regulations in different countries to combat drugs counterfeiting and food safety incidents and recalls due to outbreaks, cross-contamination, and counterfeiting. The new era of smarter food safety blueprint is the biggest initiative for this decade. Governments are applying too taxes on alcohol/tobacco consumption but nevertheless consumers are still buying falsified products.


Besides, the digital health transformation roadmap as being presented by HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) and EU commission show how healthcare providers are adopting many technological trends that increase the potential number of cyber-attacks to their electronic systems, used to manage electronic patient health information (ePHI). Information Governance and Regulatory Compliance like HIPAA in the US, PIPEDA in Canada, GDPR and NIS in the EU mandate the physical and cyber security and privacy of health records, whether they are in paper or electronic. Cybersecurity requirements for software as medical devices are published too by the European commission and USA for medical devices. The sharing of healthcare information among organizations can present significant risks in areas of security, privacy, and compliance.


It is worse with other type of supply chains where digital transformation or smart manufacturers are connected to increase visibility but also threats while using the internet of things, virtual/augmented realities, robots, artificial intelligence, big data storage and analysis, mobile and cloud computing, just to name few.

 

As supply chains are going digital, many best practices can be adopted to ensure end-to-end protection:

  • Advocating for cyber-security strategy with common consensus among all players;
  • Hiring appropriate skills to manage risks at all levels and work on information governance;
  • Being compliant to all the regulations and good manufacturing practices to implement: Track & Trace, Product Authentication & Verification, Product Integrity and Quality Assurance;
  • Full visibility with transparent digital communication for fast recovery and recall management.



[1]
Cybercrime Magazine, Healthcare Industry To Spend $65 Billion On Cybersecurity From 2017 To 2021, https://cybersecurityventures.com/healthcare-industry-to-spend-65-billion-on-cybersecurity-from-2017-to-2021/

[2] Gartner: An Assessment of Global Regulations Across the Healthcare Value Chain Requiring Track and Trace with Serialization, published: 5 February 2020 ID: G00418228

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