The NTD Supply Chain Forum

The NTD Supply Chain Forum is a collaboration ensuring donated drugs reach those who need them most. In this article, GSK's Director of Supply Planning and Finances for Global Health Programmes, Tijana Duric, explains how the NTDSCF came about and how it works.

11 February 2015

The battle against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) requires teamwork, partnerships, and collaboration across multiple organisational sectors. The pharmaceutical industry donates millions of doses of medicines each year to treat NTDs across more than 70 countries. Supply Chain Management plays a critical role in ensuring these medicines make it the many miles from their point of manufacture to the people who need them.

Over a billion treatments are donated yearly by pharmaceutical companies to support mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns to control or eliminate blinding trachoma, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. These NTDs affect the poorest of the poor, usually living in hard to reach places. Getting the medicines to communities can be challenging.

During MDA campaigns, all eligible children and adults living in a community are treated, a task which requires an enormous amount of logistical planning. The NTD medicines are regularly manufactured, carefully packaged and shipped across borders as part of the ‘first mile’ of the supply chain. All of these steps happen in various locations across the globe and require a range of people working together to ensure timely delivery of quality medicines to endemic countries. Once these donated medicines arrive in a country, they are transported to the communities that need them. This ‘last mile’ must be crossed by whatever means necessary by dedicated health workers and volunteers, whether by truck, motorcycle, bicycle, boat or on foot.

The NTD Supply Chain Forum (NTDSCF) is a coalition of partners engaged in the donation of medicines for NTDs. This coalition was formed in 2012 and partners include Eisai, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, MSD, Merck KGaA, Pfizer and WHO, as well as global logistics company DHL, and non-governmental organisations Children Without Worms (CWW), Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) and the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI). By coming together to identify and address supply chain issues, these partners can maximize the impact of the donated medicines.

One of the main projects tackled by the NTDSCF has been establishing a new NTD dedicated DHL Control Tower, enabling the logistics provider to oversee the clearance of drugs through customs and ensure delivery to national warehouses. This approach has helped minimize delays and reduce demurrage charges.

Together with the WHO, the NTDSCF has also piloted new tools in an effort to improve country forecasting and planning. One such tool is now being further developed into a database of country-specific shipping information to facilitate shipments, promote advocacy with stakeholders and support the supply chain process for donated medicines. Using modelling, the group is currently mapping supply chains of several NTD medicines, in an attempt to streamline delivery of co-administered supplies.

The NTDSCF also helps facilitate the delivery of critical diagnostic tools to support surveillance activities that help track progress towards elimination goals for diseases such as lymphatic filariasis.

Addressing challenges of the NTD drug supply chain is a critical strategy for achieving the goals of the London Declaration. The establishment of the NTDSCF will help medicines for the NTDs to make it to the right place at the right time for country programs to treat at-risk communities more effectively.

More information about the NTD Supply Chain Forum from the United to Combat NTDs Second Report

More information about GSK's Global Health Programmes 

Watch a video about the work of the NTD Supply Chain Forum: