Why it’s time to scrutinize global medical supply chain security


The COVID-19 pandemic shed new light on numerous longstanding problems with the global health ecosystem, with supply-chain vulnerabilities’ being chief among them.

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Material procurement was inadequate, opaque operations thwarted efforts at stopping propagation of substandard and falsified medications, and obscure logistical practices put up roadblocks to assessing and managing the environmental consequences of waste management. Moreover, responsibility for these failures was shared by numerous stakeholders, including policymakers, health care organizations, regulators, manufacturers and distributors. 

The April issue of AMA Journal of Ethics® (@JournalofEthics) investigates how these and other agents’ ongoing failures to cultivate public health capacity, nourish sustainable production processes and carefully maintain systemic supply chain resiliency are unjust.

The April issue of AMA Journal of Ethics includes the following articles:

  1. Which Drugs Should Be on the Essential Medicines List?

    1. The WHO has a list of essential medicines. What about medicines that might not get to patients who need them on time?
  2. What Should Prescribers and Policy Makers Know About U.S. Drug Importation?

    1. Therapeutic security in inpatient psychiatric settings requires careful planning and implementation if it is to support patients’ safety and dignity.
  3. AMA Code of Medical Ethics’ Opinions Related to Global Medical Supply Chain Security.”

    1. When global medical supply chains fail, what should physicians do?
  4. How Should Critical Medications Be Rationed During Shortages?

    1. Recent increases in the frequency of shortages require more rationing by physicians and other health professionals.

The journal’s April “Ethics Talk” podcast features a discussion with Amy B. Cadwallader, PhD, director of regulatory and public policy development at US Pharmacopeia. She discussed how critical medicine supply chains are identified and secured.

The April issue also features eight author-interview podcasts. Listen to previous episodes of the “Ethics Talk” podcast or subscribe in iTunes or other services.

Also, CME modules drawn from this month’s issue are collected at the AMA Ed Hub™ AMA Journal of Ethics webpage.

The journal’s editorial focus is on commentaries and articles that offer practical advice and insights for medical students and physicians. Submit a manuscript for publication. The journal also invites original photographs, graphics, cartoons, drawings and paintings that explore the ethical dimensions of health or health care.

The next issue of the journal will focus on antimicrobial resistance. Sign up to receive email alerts when new issues are published.