Top 10 pharmaceutical supply chains

Top 10 pharmaceutical supply chains
Top 10 pharmaceutical supply chains include Pfizer, Roche, AbbVie, J&J, Novartis, Sanofi, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, GSK & AstraZeneca

Supply chain is a complicated industry that typically requires highly trained engineers to oversee, but pharmaceutical (pharma) supply chains take complexity to another level.

As well as the usual litany of supply challenges, pharma has distinct requirements on the handling of materials like a cold chain element, and also faces the perils of product recalls and compliance issues, because the field of medicine is just about the most regulated sector there is. 

And then of course there’s the added pressure of how catastrophic any delays might prove, because the medicines being shipped are critical for ensuring patients have access to the medicines they need to maintain their health, or even keep them alive.

The pharmaceutical industry is also facing massive changes, something that predates the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments have been pressuring pharmaceutical suppliers to lower costs, while increased competition has required more speed from industry players. 

Also, an explosion of personalised therapies has strained medical supply chains to deliver unique products for each patient, rather than bulk supplies of a singular product. 

Here are 10 of the most significant pharmaceutical companies, whose supply chains are helping keep the world’s population healthy.

Largest pharma supply chains: Pfizer

Country: USA
Revenue: $100bn
: Albert Bourla
Pfizer is a multinational pharmaceutical company based in New York. It is best known in recent years for developing one of the Covid vaccinations, “We are consistently in pursuit of scientific breakthroughs and revolutionary medicines to create a healthier world,” it says of itself.

Pfizer’s supply chain services the health of an estimated 1.2bn people living in 45 lower-income countries worldwide. 

It provides access to treatments for infectious diseases, such as Covid and pneumonia, as well as cancers, heart disease and women’s health conditions.

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Largest pharma supply chains: Roche 

Country: Switzerland
Revenue: $77bn
CEOThomas Schinecker
Roche partners with stakeholders at global, country and community levels to enable access to innovative healthcare, regardless of location. In the past 100 years, Roche has grown into one of the largest biotech companies.

Spearheading this growth is its Pharma Technical Development Clinical Supply Chain team, which manages one of the largest and most complex pharmaceutical pipelines in the industry, handling typically 600 active clinical trials at any given time.

It also plays a critical role in ensuring 100,000 patients a year receive innovative new investigational medicines reliably and safely in almost every country in the world.

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Largest pharma supply chains: AbbVie

Country: USA
Revenue: $58bn
Richard A. Gonzalez
Based in Chicago, AbbVie is a biopharmaceutical company that discovers and develops drug in areas such as immunology, oncology, neuroscience, and women’s health.

It says of its supply chain: “Our suppliers are an extension of our business. To ensure that suppliers share and maintain our standards for product quality, availability and security, and ESG stewardship, we have a comprehensive supplier management programme.”

This programme has four components: criticality assessment and stratification; criticality-based controls; relationship management; and continuous monitoring and assessment. 

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Largest pharma supply chains: J&J

Country: USA
Revenue: $53bn
Joaquin Duato
Now 135 years old, Johnson & Johnson says its mission has always been “to keep people well at every age and every stage of life”. Today it is the world’s largest and most diversified healthcare products company. 

The pharmaceuticals business of the J&J family of companies has five core therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, metabolism, retina & pulmonary hypertension; immunology; infectious diseases & vaccines; neuroscience; and oncology.

“We strive to improve access and affordability, create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere,” it says.

Largest pharma supply chains: Novartis

Country: Switzerland
Revenue: $51bn
Vasant Narasimhan
Novartis is a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland.  

“Our purpose is to reimagine medicine to improve and extend people's lives,” it says. “We use innovative science and technology to address some of society's most challenging healthcare issues and to find new ways to deliver them to as many people as possible.”

Norvartis is committed to working with supply chain vendors “who operate in a manner consistent with our values and ethical principles”, and it manages this through its Third-Party Risk Management framework, which it says “fosters sustainability across our supply chain”.

Largest pharma supply chains: Sanofi

Country: France
Revenue: $48bn
Paul Hudson
Sanofi is a global healthcare company that provides medicines and life-changing treatments. It has developed vaccines to improve people’s lives and to work towards infectious disease prevention and control. 

Its supply chain is aligned closely with the company's commitment to sustainability. It says: “Sustainability is embedded in our procurement processes, as well as in our supplier relationship management strategy, with the aim to create sustainable business throughout our supply chain.

Largest pharma supply chains: Bristol Myers Squibb

Country: USA
Revenue: $46.2bn
Chris Boerner
Bristol Myers Squibb is a global pharmaceutical company committed to research development, patient advocacy and inclusivity. A part of this work is supporting community-based programs that promote cancer awareness, screening, care and support among high-risk populations. 

It says: Strategic sourcing and procurement sit at the centre of our global enterprise, connecting all our business units through a world-class network of suppliers and value-creating partnerships. “We source hundreds of direct and indirect goods and services around the world for our various teams, including R&D, packaging and a multitude of professional services.” 

Largest pharma supply chains: Merck

Country: Germany
Revenue: $43bn
Belén Garijo
Merck is a multinational science and technology company that develops important medicines and vaccines. It also delivers innovative health solutions that increase prevention and treatment of diseases in both people and animals. 

It procures raw materials, products and services from all over the world. It ensures compliance with ethical and legal standards by auditing suppliers “to increase our supply chain transparency and identify areas of improvement”. To this end, it is a member of the Together for Sustainability initiative, which is connected to the rating agency EcoVadis.

Largest pharma supply chains: GSK

Country: UK
Revenue: $39bn
Emma Walmsley
GSK is a UK-based multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company focused on medicines and vaccinations. It speciality is developing cancer medicines. Its vaccines portfolio is also one of the biggest in the pharmaceutical industry, protecting people from diseases such as meningitis, shingles, flu, polio and measles. 

It says of its supply chain: “Delivering billions of packs of medicines that make a positive change in the health of the world is something we take seriously. It’s a responsibility that drives us to innovate across every stage of the process and helps us bring about better and faster results.”

Largest pharma supply chains: AstraZeneca

Country: UK
Revenue: $13bn
Pascal Soriot
AstraZeneca is a global, science-led, patient-focused biopharmaceutical company that creates innovative medicines for millions of patients worldwide.

In 2017, it signed a partnership with EcoVadis to expand its ESG due diligence. Its third-party risk management assessments include “an initial assessment of activity, geography and value to assess the overall business risk”.

It says: “We extend our influence by demanding high standards of our 57,000 suppliers around the world.”

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