Just like a “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” the path for the Novaplus® Enhanced Supply Program to protect against shortages for essential medications should a supply chain disruption occur, started where everything begins…by securing the first unit.
The program, which began in January 2020, provides supply assurance for participating Vizient members through increased inventory commitment from suppliers and members for essential medications. The program proved successful in the spring of 2020 when demand for the sedative propofol, used to treat COVID patients on ventilators, spiked 272%. Through the program, 676,000 additional units of the sedative had already entered the market at the time of the spike.
Vizient has a long history and commitment to end drug shortages. Building assurance for medications that members consider essential for daily operations was the focused driver behind the Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program’s unique approach in working with supplier partners and members to achieve this inventory milestone. Bringing 100 million units of medication inventory onshore, including more than 300 unique presentations of essential medications into the supply chain, protects members at times of disruption.
“Many of these medications are critical in the acute care setting to save lives,” said Mittal Sutaria, Vizient senior vice president, contract & program services for pharmacy. “Disruption creates urgency. In an unanticipated weather event, or even in a pandemic where we don’t know how the supply chain will be impacted, we are now able to rely on this additional inventory to support members and get them through the challenge.”
The visual impact of 100 million units of inventory is overwhelming—it’s 500 times as tall as Mount Everest—but in caring for patients, one unit of essential treatment can be life-changing. Examples include simple medications like epinephrine, antibiotics, blood thinners and numerous drugs for chronic diseases as well as chemotherapy agents and other oncology protocol medications.
A surge in demand for these medications and products is not a new challenge for hospitals, and COVID-19 only exacerbated supply disruptions. Every day, news outlets highlight the national concern of an ongoing fractured chain of delivery. Sutaria noted a lack of transparency across the supply chain is one of the reasons why the program is dedicated to working with suppliers to warehouse finished products in the U.S. to meet immediate member demand.
The Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program journey
The Novaplus program started several decades ago and has been one of the solutions for members to address ongoing drug shortages. Members have better access to products that are part of the program along with its competitive pricing framework.
The Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program continues to expand and grow today, adding new manufacturers to the program, while member compliance is further enhanced thanks to the availability of more product. Both members and suppliers see the added value in ending drug shortages in critical need times.
“One of the main benefits for members is that they can access any product in our inventory any time there’s a supply challenge,” Sutaria said. “As a company, we also learned that a focused expansion of the program has unlimited potential.”
A value-added program for members
Sutaria defines the greatest value to members as uninterrupted access. “Redundant inventory means consistent supply,” she said. “If members know a medication is available through the Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program, then it becomes much more efficient to get that drug to the patient’s bedside.”
Members are kept aware of how the additional inventory is manufactured based on their historical purchases through the communication of a monthly Pharmacy Value Tracker, and members can access this inventory when they experience a supply disruption. Hospitals and health systems no longer need to stockpile supply which frees them to focus on patient care. Both members’ commitment to purchase Novaplus products that are available through the enhanced supply program and our suppliers’ commitment to additional production and warehousing provides confidence and assurance.
In addition, Vizient has firmly stated its commitment to enhance or develop programs that end drug supply shortages. Strategies like the Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program that offer seamless access are part of the effort to meet this challenge for health system pharmacy operations.
A look ahead for the Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program
Currently, the 100 million units referenced are a pooled inventory among members. It can address any member-specific need across the U.S. by tapping into the inventory as necessary. Vizient is looking to evolve the program based on members’ commitment. As members increase their needs and suppliers create more products in warehouses, the Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program overall builds the necessary assurance to counter any disruption in a supply chain crisis.
Sutaria added, the need to improve transparency and create redundancy in the supply chain will be especially important to bring an end to drug shortages. Member collaboration with suppliers along with their long-term commitment is also key to future program growth. “It’s a multi-pronged approach,” she said. “You need visibility of the drug shortage issue, accountability by hospitals and suppliers and access to essential medication needs through solutions like Novaplus Enhanced Supply Program.”