While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, distributors are taking proactive steps and working closely with the broader healthcare community to respond to the crisis and prevent disruptions to the pharmaceutical supply chain. As the logistics experts of healthcare, our commitment is to ensure that providers, pharmacies and the patients they serve have access to the vital medicines and supplies they need during these challenging times.
The essential business function of pharmaceutical distributors was recognized by the federal government last week, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recognized the industry as “Critical Infrastructure” following outreach by HDA and Healthcare Ready to the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Distributors, and other industries identified as critical infrastructure in the Agency’s guidance, are those “needed to maintain the services and functions Americans depend on daily and need to be able to operate resiliently during the COVID-19 pandemic response.” Such a designation allows distributors to receive:
- Emergency access and reentry to quarantine areas;
- Access to available cleaning and sanitation resources; and,
- Uniform federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on containment and mitigation procedures in the event of an exposed/infected employee at a distribution center.
CISA’s designation significantly enhances the ability for distributors to remain operational and maintain the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain as the industry operates in an unpredictable environment. As a critical infrastructure industry, essential employees are able to stay on the job, and distributors are able to maintain deliveries to hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare providers.
While this federal designation is critical, we are also in contact with state policymakers and regulators across the country to ensure distributors can effectively respond to the crisis. To date, every state and community that has issued a “shelter-in-place” or business closure order has included distributors among the essential services allowed to remain open.
During this public health emergency, distributor employees continue to rise to the challenge, staffing warehouses to fulfill orders and working closely with customers to make accessible vital prescription drugs and medical supplies. We will continue to work collaboratively with our public and private sector partners to prepare and respond to COVID-19. However the situation unfolds, we are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure patient access to critically needed medicines and healthcare products.
Additional HDA materials and other pandemic response resources are available at www.hda.org/covid19.