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Trends for 2024: pharma supply chain challenges and opportunities

As a new year begins, we often look to the future with a lot of excitement about what’s to come. It’s no different for the pharma industry, a sector that is ever evolving and integral to the well-being of everyone. In this article, we’ll explore some of the interesting trends that we’re anticipating in 2024.

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Image of 2024 with Controlant background for look ahead article

Pharma companies in 2024 will need to ramp up output while meeting their sustainability commitments and investing in digital capabilities. Companies must prepare for a more digital-forward industry while shoring up their operations to adapt to automation. And they need to invest wisely in innovative therapies and technologies and be prepared for global market volatility.

Five expected pharma supply chain trends for 2024

Of the many emerging trends, we’ve identified the following five to keep a close eye on in 2024: technological innovation, new healthcare therapies, green initiatives, growing operational challenges, and the increasingly important role of partnerships. Embracing these trends will be crucial for pharmaceutical companies to stay competitive, meet regulatory and compliance requirements, and effectively address the evolving healthcare needs of the global population.

Technological innovations: automation and digitalization

The pharmaceutical industry buzz around digitalization has reached fever pitch. Automation is increasingly being integrated into various phases of drug development, from discovery to production, streamlining processes and driving innovation.

A recent survey by GlobalData revealed that 89% of pharma industry leaders are either implementing or developing a digital transformation strategy - a significant increase of 10% from 2022. The Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain fallout remain at the forefront of decision makers’ minds when considering digital developments, with 71% of respondents identifying it as a key catalyst in their strategic shift towards digital transformation.

In addition to shoring up supply chains, technology will enhance the efficiency of existing processes. “Trends such as the focus on cell and gene therapies and the use of AI technology have a knock-on effect for the future of the pharma supply chain,” says Adalheidur Pálmadóttir, vice president of business development at Controlant. “They will need to cater to more individualized therapies.”

New healthcare therapies bring new priorities

Groundbreaking therapies like mRNA vaccines and cell and gene treatments continue to make headlines in the pharma world. Supply chains have had to catch up, implementing cold chain and real-time monitoring methods. There is a surge in popularity to accommodate novel therapies’ unique requirements. According to GlobalData’s 2023 Looking Ahead report, significant growth is forecasted in biologics therapies of 39%, far outpacing the anticipated 24% growth in total drug sales from 2023 to 2028.

With an expected 57% market share translating to $771.4 billion in sales by 2028, demand for supporting logistical and supply chain technology – like cold chain storage, packaging, and state-of-the-art remote monitoring devices is set to soar.

Green initiatives: reducing emissions and embracing sustainability

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations have moved from the pharma sector’s "nice to have” to a core objective in recent years. Beyond carbon reduction, 17 of the world's 20 largest pharmaceutical companies are leading initiatives to enhance medication access in low- and middle-income countries. This marks an increase from just eight pharma companies in 2010.

Pharmaceutical companies have committed to reducing emissions by 45.8% over the next 12 years, outpacing non-pharmaceutical firms. According to analysis from the industry publication Pharmaceutical Technology, the 32 biggest pharmaceutical firms by revenue have made public commitments to emissions reduction that, if fulfilled, would represent an overall fall of 45.8% over the next 12 years. That compares to 44.6% among similarly sized non-pharmaceutical firms over the same period.

“Sustainability has always been at the heart of everything we do,” says Vicki Preibisch, vice president of sustainability at Controlant. “Our core value proposition is to make the world’s supply chains more sustainable, resilient, and integrated. We recognize the urgency to protect our planet, to meet the needs of a growing population and generations to come… [we aspire] towards sustainability leadership by balancing environmental, social, and economic performance.”

Increased operational challenges and external factors

The pharmaceutical landscape will continue to face volatility; political and economic instability over recent years revealed unrecognized fragilities in long-established supply chains. Some external factors that impact global pharma supply chains include port congestion, extreme weather, geopolitical conflict, and pandemics.

The adoption of a full range of resilience-boosting techniques is emerging as a crucial part of conversations around the future of pharmaceutical supply chains. This necessitates real-time unit-level tracking, scalable manufacturing capabilities and just-in-time delivery systems – governed by high-tech, digital platforms. As well as shoring up supply chains, this will accelerate the efficiency of existing processes.

Partnerships will play a crucial role

Identifying and partnering with the right company will continue to be a gamechanger for logistics companies. For instance, implementing a seamless Single Purpose View facilitates transparency and peace of mind across all stakeholders by automatically sharing shipment overviews, maps, and graphs through a customizable, view-only webpage.

The advantage of onboarding such a platform is that it can integrate disparate supply chain nodes in one convenient environment. According to Hristo Petkov, Controlant’s vice president of partnerships: “Resilience in customer supply chains remains top of mind. Partners in the supply chain need to collaborate. This requires the ability to link multiple partners in one platform – and to focus on quality and resilience, not cost.” Prioritizing collaboration offers a sure foundation for cracking down on waste and boosting efficiency right across the supply chain.

Looking further ahead

Of course, we can’t predict the future with complete certainty, but these are some of the trends we’re keeping an eye on based on the state of the pharma supply chain today. We’´re looking forward to keeping the conversation going in 2024 and finding out what pharma supply chain trends and technologies are yet to appear on the horizon.