A year after the COVID-19 pandemic sent the country into lockdown, there is light at the end of the tunnel with more than 15% of the U.S. population now fully vaccinated.
McKesson is playing a key role in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as in August 2020, the pharmaceutical distribution and IT company was selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be the centralized distributor for vaccines and ancillary supply kits.
Under a centralized model, the U.S. government directs McKesson on all aspects of distribution, including where and when to ship vaccines and ancillary supply kits to point-of-care sites across the country.
In December 2020, the company began distributing Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and ancillary supply kits needed to administer them. As of March 1, it began distributing the one-shot COVID-19 vaccine received from Janssen Pharmaceuticals of Johnson & Johnson.
Craig Dolan, vice president of Business Development and Innovation for McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical, serves on McKesson’s Critical Care Drug Task Force, which uses data and analytics to monitor medicines across the supply chain.
The task force played an important role in getting critical care drugs to patients on ventilators in 2020.
But as treatment of COVID-19 has changed through at least three surges, the supply chain has needed to keep pace.
“The majority of the patients got so ill so fast that many were put on ventilators quickly,” said Dolan, who has a background in hospital administration, managing pharmacy departments and infusion centers.
“Now you do whatever you can to keep them off the ventilators. That’s changed the demand and mix of medications.”
The pandemic’s effect on the supply chain has transformed the way hospitals currently approach supplies and how they will in the future, Dolan said.
Most hospitals planned to have months of supply of critical drugs in the early days of the pandemic.
“While we saw pandemic-induced buying in 2020, hospitals have learned lessons in how they treat COVID-19 and how they manage supplies moving forward,” Dolan said. “Hospitals will apply new ways of forecasting in 2021 and beyond to ultimately strengthen the U.S. supply chain.”
Over the last year, Dolan said he has spoken to customers to build stronger relationships. He and McKesson field accounts teams are now working with health systems to look at their medical spend, identify revenue recovery opportunities and advise hospitals on how to navigate.
Dolan anticipates hospitals will leverage scale with suppliers and apply new ways of forecasting supply in 2021 – all in the pursuit of a more transparent and equitable supply chain.
“We’re advising customers to continue to work closely with suppliers for each issue they may be facing,” he said. “Each group in the supply chain should be working together to solve problems. And while we are all eager to return to normal and less volatility, the eagerness to partner and deepen relationships will only benefit the supply chain moving forward.”