Every business in every industry strives for uninterrupted continuity of operations. Their shareholders and customers depend on their ability to function even through crises. If an auto repair shop shuts down for two days due to a power outage, customers' cars don’t get fixed and they fall behind schedule. If a bank goes offline for eight hours amidst a server failure, transactions are tardy and customers may miss important transfers and payments. Both risk customer frustration, reputation damage, and lost revenue. But when a pharma company suffers a disruption in operations, it risks consumers lives and well-being.

Pharma bears the weight of business continuity like few other industries. They are not a stand-alone organization where only their immediate business and customers suffer when they go down. They are part of greater health-sustaining machine. Not only do patients rely on their medications and devices in the course of everyday life, but the ill and injured depend on their products during disasters and emergencies too. Hospitals, clinics, emergency responders, even the military look to pharma companies to keep them supplied appropriately.

Yet along with that profound responsibility comes a unique set of threats and circumstances that challenge pharma’s business continuity efforts.

What distinctions complicate pharma’s BC approach?

  • Heavy and oft-changing regulations
    • Regulations that vary from country to country and state to state
    • Geographical diverse supply chain
    • Geographically clustered manufacturing facilities
    • Cost complications and regulations
  • Sensitive intellectual property
    • Political pressures and volatile climates

Pharma’s Three Key Threats of Today
Now more than ever the pharma industry face threats unrivaled even just 20 years ago. Rapid technology evolution mingling with sophisticated research have delivered efficiency and innovations to the pharma industry: from wireless heart monitors to classified data on infectious disease treatments. All this advancement also ushered in greater risk.

Perpetual Policy Changes
Frequently shifting healthcare landscapes, social issues (such as drug addiction epidemics), cost concerns, and technology progression all cry out for policy changes to help pharma keep pace with the world for which it provides. Yet, persistently changing policies place pharma companies in danger of non-compliance.  Compliancy issues can birth repercussions ranging from reputation damage to fines to class action law suits.

Cyber Space Security
Every device or appliance seems to be connected to the internet, and most data transmitted through it. Now a doctor can inspect and manipulate a patient’s heart in another state…but so can a cyber criminal. The same can be said for sensitive data transmitted between research colleagues. If devices and data are manageable and accessible via WiFi by authorized persons, then they’re just as attainable by persons of ill intent.

Pharma harvests massive data from clinical trials, research, marketing, etc. The implications of a breach cannot be underestimated or overstated.

Desisting Disaster
With pharma’s supply chains scattered across the globe, and a chunk of its manufacturing bundled on one hurricane-prone island, natural disasters and extreme weather constantly stalk the pharma industry. Puerto Rico – and resident pharma manufacturers - are still reeling from a hurricane, a tropical storm, and another weather-related black out – all within one year. The tiny country plays host to 10% of America’s drug supply.

Poor preparation and management of a natural disaster can inflict damages and loss long after the disaster itself is just a memory. Healthcare facilities, emergency responders, and those they treat will feel the hit of the disaster from continents away.

The BC Responsibility
Pharma’s continuity responsibility goes far beyond its own business concerns, it extends to the lives and health of millions. With deep risk assessments and frequently updated and tested enterprise-wide plans, a pharma company can successfully shoulder the threats and risks it faces today.

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Topics: Pharma| Business Continuity

Angie Longacre

Written by Angie Longacre

As a writer for Assurance Software, Angie devotes her craft to promoting business continuity and disaster recovery awareness, and trumpeting Assurance Software’s invaluable benefits for both. When she’s not commanding the keyboard, you can find her outside for a run, searching for her next antique treasure, or lost in a good book.

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