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December 15, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Improving medical supply chains in the developing world & at the base of the pyramid

Here’s a recent article from Next Billion Blog:

We found that Coca-Cola’s system of production and distribution is built very strongly around information and incentives. The medicine supply chain system, on the other hand, is built around normative guidance and regulation.

Yes, medicines need regulatory oversight much more than Coca-Cola. And the retail points where medicines are stocked and sold perhaps cannot be as widespread as those of Coke. But the more important learning is that the Coca-Cola system thrives on small, empowered, entrepreneurial units working together on a centrally developed “drum-beat” to make the complex process of delivery work smoothly. The medicine supply chains, on the other hand, work with a top-down institutional mindset which in some cases hinders innovation. The primary reason for this is the greater need for control and oversight in medicine distribution, due to the higher safety risks involved.

Health care service provision in the developing world has seen remarkable benefits from social innovation in the last decade. LifeSpring hospitals can deliver babies at a fraction of the cost, with higher quality. Aravind, the pioneer in low-cost high-volume business models, accomplishes the same with eye and cataract surgery. MedicallHome, the Saúde 10 clinics in Brazil, HMRI, MeraDoctor: the examples of social businesses that have made affordable health care possible for the bottom 4 billion are numerous.

However, there are very few examples of social enterprises focused on improving access to medicines. And the few that exist often depend on support from large global donors.
Looking forward

For essential medicine supply chains to be effective and efficient we need social innovation at a scale similar to that in health care service provision.

Read more here. You can also read his article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) here.

So how can medical care supply chains be improved in the developing world & at the bottom of the pyramid?

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