Demand forecasting - defined as the ongoing process of projecting which products will be purchased, where, when, and in what quantities - serves five critical functions in the market for global health products and the effective delivery of medicines and supplies, all of which add up to lives saved:
- Essential products are available because there is enough supply to meet demand. Demand forecasts allow manufacturers to plan and invest in manufacturing capacity while taking advantage of production efficiencies, ensuring sufficient supply to meet demand.
- New products are developed because there is a realistic picture of future markets. Demand forecasts provide manufacturers with information about new market potential, permitting them to efficiently allocate resources to develop, produce and commercialize new products, thereby accelerating the pace of product availability, that respond to developing country opportunities.
- Supply chain capacity is increased so products can get to people who need them. Demand forecasts enable those working on health systems strengthening in developing countries to plan expansion of their capacity to deliver products patients, matched to the scale and mix of products required.
- Funders plan purchases and make the most of the money available. Demand forecasts allow donors and national governments to efficiently allocate their resources by fostering appropriate prices and adequate supplies of products.
- The public health community sees bottlenecks and understands opportunities to expand use. Demand forecasts highlight key demand- and supply-side constraints, and can guide policy and advocacy efforts to reduce those constraints and achieve broader access; this can even include influencing the characteristics of future products to respond to potential demand.
Recent changes in the global health marketplace have made demand forecasting both more important and more difficult, creating a challenging environment that urgently requires new and innovative approaches to help the global supply chain catch up.