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Cover of Policy Paper 139
Policy Papers

Improving Global Health Supply Chains through Traceability

Michael Pisa and Denise McCurdy
February 25, 2019
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In many low- and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) where disease burdens are highest, health supply chains function poorly, resulting in frequent stockouts and a high prevalence of substandard and even falsified medications. In response to these concerns, the global health initiatives have stepped up their efforts to improve supply chain management. At the same time, a growing number of rich country pharmaceutical companies are investing in digital technologies that help them “track and trace” the movement of medicines through the supply chain at the package-level. Drawing from interviews with over thirty experts, we find that traceability offers a realistic solution to some of the problems found in LMIC health supply chains but that implementing the approach is a huge logistical endeavor that requires a strong political commitment. We close by discussing how donors can support committed governments, by taking an evidence-based approach to determine what traceability methods work best.

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