By Suzanne Ward
Nashville knows a thing or two about supply chains. It’s why we’re home to an Amazon center of excellence for supply chains and logistics. This past summer’s worries about Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, may not seem connected to trucking, flying and shipping important things, but take a closer look. And when you do, consider the role you can play in helping it all work.
EEE has changed the Autumn debate over whether it’s still warm enough to enjoy dinner outside. It has become a question of maybe staying in and avoiding mosquitos which can carry the disease.
But don’t dismiss the “equine” in that middle E, which nods to this disease first being noticed in horses. It’s the latest little signal in a parade of them that supply chains, and how they involve animals, are more complex than we acknowledge, and getting increasingly more complex.
First, let’s open up the potential for diseases carried by mosquitos to be more problematic than we initially think.
When Zika, another disease carried by mosquitoes, was front and center, we learned what countries pregnant mothers should or should not visit, and what measures should be taken for protection. But what many people didn’t hear was the concern about protecting donated blood, and placental tissues after full term births, donated by mothers for wound care, surgical eye procedures, and orthopedic surgery.
Could Zika be transferred from one person to another that way? Fortunately, these medical logistical processes were protected. You don’t hear about it, but an army of supply chain and safety professionals combed through where tissue was derived and how it was processed, and kept us safe.
But we don’t just derive important therapies from donated human tissue or blood, we also receive them from animals.
In most parts of the globe, snake antivenin is derived from horses, believe it or not. Venom is milked from venomous snakes, preferably from snakes in the region where a potential patient may be bitten. It is then injected into a horse’s blood stream in an amount that is supported by the horse’s system, and against which the horse’s body develops an antibody. This can then be extracted and processed to become an antivenin to save humans.
There is no synthetic antivenin for deadly snake bites.
So then, it becomes imperative that you must not only protect human populations from direct exposure to diseases like EEE, but also therapies that may be derived from other animals susceptible to that disease must be protected, as well.
What if there’s a breakdown in the process with a critical supply chain? Well, there is a role for all of us. We don’t have to just rely entirely on the quiet professionals overseeing safety and quality.
Where was it made … & how?
Knowing the whole story behind the products we consume is a potential step toward us, as consumers, playing our own role in the supply chain. This is especially true for medicines where we often ask whether something works, and not how it was made.
It’s not so hard.
We already look into where things are made or where they come from when we go to the grocery store. We read signs about the produce and products on the shelf. We increasingly demand ingredient labels that make sense. We look for roast chickens that haven’t been injected with hormones or antibiotics. We buy local honey that we believe can help with allergies to local flowers, and we buy local fruit that is in season.
Today, we have to come to terms that everything from our groceries, our clothes and our medicine is part of a global supply chain, and it’s an interspecies, multi-ecosystem supply chain. Knowing that and considering it our business is a first step toward supply chains that are smarter and acknowledge that we’re more interconnected, even with animals, than we realize. The more we can about how the things we count on got made, and how they came to us, the more we empower those unsung people that work to keep it safe.
Suzanne Ward is Senior Director of Medical Strategy for Boston Scientific’s BTG Pharmaceuticals division in Nashville. BTG is an international specialist healthcare company developing and commercializing products targeting critical care, cancer, and other rare disorders. For more information, go online to bostonscientific.com.