Posted: March 25, 2019

Partners come together to solve supply chain challenges in global health

Girija Sankar

NTDeliver, a groundbreaking online tool that addresses key global health supply chain challenges, grew out of the work of Cassandra Holloway of Children Without Worms (CWW). From 2011 to 2014, Cassandra helped coordinate the supply chain for Johnson & Johnson (J&J) – donated mebendazole (Vermox™) for soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH, also called, intestinal worm infections)[1]. During that time, the J&J donation increased from 24 million doses in 2011 to 158 million doses in 2014. Then, supply chain managers had to track donated medicines manually on spreadsheets and email them between the drug donor, supply chain managers, the World Health Organization (WHO), and recipient countries. Now, thanks to the efforts of Cassandra and partners (including GlaxoSmithKline[2], J&J, Merck KGaA, WHO, USAID, RTI International, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), countries that receive donated drugs for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and partners can track shipments 24X7 using NTDeliver.

The online portal is a product of the NTD Supply Chain Forum (NTD-SCF), a voluntary, private-public partnership working together to solve supply chain challenges in NTD drug donations. Cassandra, an early participant in the forum, says “the NTD Supply Chain Forum provided a common platform for all partners to come together and explore options beyond Excel workbooks to manage the NTD drug supply chain using a web-based platform.”

Through the NTD-SCF, partners defined the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in getting the drugs from production to delivery. Adds Cassandra, “we each noted that we were all using these massive Excel workbooks to track our respective supply chain processes.” In charting roles and responsibilities, partners wondered if a unified tool might help all of them – something that anybody could access at any time for updated shipment information.

In 2014, the NTD-SCF commissioned RTI International to develop an integrated supply chain tool. Partners agreed that a unified platform for tracking drug movement would reduce transaction costs and improve efficiency by allowing countries to plan activities based on accurate and timely information on drug shipments. Dr. Christian Schroeter, responsible for the Praziquantel donation for the global Schistosomiasis elimination program, says “the trustful collaboration we have in the supply chain forum allowed us to build a truly interactive tool to track our shipments. NTDeliver has tracked more than 2 billion tablets all the way to the first warehouse in the recipient countries since going live in 2016.”

Tijana Williams, founding member of the NTD-SCF and Director of supply chain planning and finances for the NTD unit at GSK says, “transparency, coordination, and visibility across the end-to-end supply chain of NTD donations was needed in order to make the process much more efficient and effective – we have now achieved this with the NTDeliver and we should all be proud of that.”

Since the launch in 2016, the NTDeliver tool has grown to 97 users, including 15 Ministry of Health and WHO representatives.  NTD-SCF partners hope to grow the user base to include every country receiving donations for NTD elimination.  CWW Director Rubina Imtiaz adds, “With this tool, countries participating in drug donation programs will be able to determine where their drug allocations are in the supply chain and plan their annual drug distribution campaigns accordingly. This kind of information is powerful and transformative in public health campaigns and we’re thrilled to have been a part of this global effort.”

Children Without Worms will continue to support the NTD-SCF in developing new functionality within the NTDeliver to track the distribution of the drugs at the community level.


Webinar on the NTDeliver tool

3-minute video on the supply chain for donated drugs

[1] Between 2006 and 2014, CWW helped coordinate the drug donations from Johnson & Johnson to endemic countries.
[2] GLAXOSMITHKLINE, GSK and the GSK Logo are trademarks of the GSK group of companies and are used with the permission of GSK.