Fire fighters. Police. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Hospital staff.

In the wake of a disaster, these four major groups respond to help citizens and save lives. Providing medications and medical equipment is one of the ways they offer aid. But who supplies these products to the responders? Pharma.

Pharma’s role during a catastrophe is crucial. Like few other industries, the pharmaceutical industry bears a critical responsibility to sustain medical device and drug supplies without interruption. Constructing and maintaining effective business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plans resides at the nucleus of this endeavor.

BC and DR plans accomplish this by providing processes and procedures to:
Identify business functions, assets, and resources that are vital to continuation of operations
• Preserve or quickly recover critical operations and business functions
• Provide contingencies and backup personnel
• Mitigate loss and damage
• Protect the welfare of staff in affected areas
• Maintain compliance with regulations

Now, take a look at the five key areas a pharma company must target in their BC/DR plan to ensure success:

Communications
One of the most critical elements within a DRP. During and after a disaster, pharma companies must maintain connection with all branches of its large communication tree: supply chain components, such as manufacturers; pharmacies; hospitals; temporary emergency facilities, patients, etc. All these entities must work with pharma to help provide needful care and support to established patients, but also to those who require care amidst the current disaster. Also, emergency communication within the organization itself is necessary for employee safety.

Data
Information is directly tied to communication as a pharma company and emergency responders must be able to access and communicate knowledge regarding for current and anticipated resource demand, along with current and projected supply. Information such as patients’ present medical status and diagnoses, current product inventory of respective locations, and current and projected condition of the affected area - can deliveries be made? Could conditions impose future injuries?

This accessibility calls for data backups. But all data should be backed up, not just data vital to disaster response. Everything from employee information to intellectual property. Loss of, say, clinical trial data could mushroom into trial re-dos, and therein missed deadlines/contract breaches and market share loss. Organizations should always store backups offsite and/or on separate networks from the original data.

Systems
Accounting, automated dispensing, web portals, pharmacy management systems, and inventory management are just a few of the systems imperative to sustaining patient needs. Conducting assessments will help identify the most crucial systems within the larger pharma machine.

Power
Today, every aspect of pharma’s business requires power – production, communications, data access, etc. Backup batteries and onsite generators provide much-needed power essential to keeping things running. Batteries should be checked and replaced regularly and generators should under regular maintenance as well, including monthly operation.

Testing
Every plan for all key targets should be tested, frequently. Testing is the best method to identifying process weaknesses and remedying them before a disaster strikes.

Still Standing After a Disaster
Pharma does not get “snow days.” They must be the ones still standing when others have fallen amidst a catastrophe. Addressing the five key concerns of BC/DR planning will enhance resiliency and operation continuity in the face of catastrophe.

For more great industry info, check out our free whitepaper:

Free Whitepaper - Breaking Down Business Continuity Barriers with Incident Management

Topics: Pharma| Incident Management| 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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