Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), was a guest speaker at the recent World Korean Medical Organization meeting in New York City, addressing the issue of pharmaceutical supply chain safety. His participation in the international health care convention reflects UTHSC’s growing presence on the national and international pharmaceutical stage, as the university prepares to build a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing facility on campus.
The convention brought together more than 400 physicians, medical students and leaders of the health care industry from all over the world to network and talk about issues facing the global health care community.
Dr. Brown said he focused his address on “heightening the awareness of the importance of preserving the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain.” The issue of safety in the drug industry is particularly important for consumers in light of the growing Internet pharmaceutical market and the emerging international problem of counterfeit drug manufacturing, he said.
“If you don’t know where a drug was manufactured, if you don’t know how the drug has been shipped, if you don’t know who handled the drug, you really don’t know if it is safe for you to take,” Dr. Brown said. “We’ve seen experiences right here in Tennessee that show what happens when drugs aren’t manufactured to the appropriate standards, precious lives are lost.”
Dr. Brown cited the example of the 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis that killed more than 60 people who received contaminated epidural steroid injections packaged and marketed by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. In Tennessee, at least 16 patients died and more than 150 were sickened by the drug that was shipped to 76 facilities in 23 states.
Speaking to an audience that included many Korean medical students, Dr. Brown stressed that health care providers, including physicians, have a major responsibility in ensuring the safety of the pharmaceuticals they buy and administer.
“It doesn’t matter that they practice medicine in Korea or that they practice medicine here in the United States or that they practice medicine in some developing Third World country, they have a responsibility in the pharmaceutical supply chain,” he said. “As the person who is the point of delivery of care to a patient, physicians need to know their responsibility is much greater than just giving the patient the medication and assuming that all of the other appropriate things that should have been done have been done.”
UTHSC is particularly interested in issues of supply chain safety and in networking with pharmaceutical companies around the globe, as it prepares to break ground later this year on the Plough Center for Sterile Drug Delivery Systems on campus, a roughly $16 million Good Manufacturing Practice pharmaceutical facility. “We can manufacture pharmaceuticals for any company, and in doing so, we will ensure the absolute integrity of the drugs that we manufacture,” Dr. Brown said. “By being directly involved in the manufacturing, shipping and verification of appropriate delivery, we can control what the supply chain looks like.”
In May, Dr. Brown traveled to China to attend a conference of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, a forum that supports sustainable economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region. The conference focused on global concerns related to pharmaceutical supply chain security. The invitation to the Korean medical conference stemmed from that meeting.