Our operational presence in Europe and how COVID-19 has changed the playing field

Here at Teva api, we’ve had a significant operational presence in Europe for many years. Over the last few months, as COVID-19 spread relentlessly across the world, we’ve gained a deeper understanding of just how valuable this presence is, and how we could optimize it to best support our supply network and ultimately provide better service to our customers.

Teva api in Europe

With approximately 50% of our manufacturing sites in Europe, including in Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, Teva api has always had a strong European presence.

In fact, Europe is a global hub for API production in general. Data shows that Europe remains a globally competitive producer of generic medicine and APIs, both for its own market and for export.

Teva api manufacturing in Europe during COVID-19

At Teva api, our network of 16 sites worldwide spans multiple countries and continents, and our dynamic supply chain moves throughout. This is vital in order to ensure diversification.

Keeping products flowing during COVID-19

When the pandemic hit, our diversified manufacturing presence meant we did not have to rely on one country or one site for all our production needs. In circumstances where the same product could be produced in multiple sites, we were able to supply it to customers from the one that was easiest to access at the time (where authorizations already existed). Our strong presence in Europe meant that we were able to continue an ongoing supply of products within Europe and globally while dealing with all the logistical challenges that arose. Our diverse manufacturing footprint provides a key advantage to our customers — and as a result, the end patient.

Our very experienced and well-connected logistics team managed to find creative ways to identify routes and deliver products, despite closed borders and canceled flights. Whether it was a more costly route or an unconventional route that took longer, the team made sure to get each order to the customer.
Our strong quality systems and robust regulatory affairs team were able to provide great support during this global pandemic, and work collaboratively with regulatory bodies in Europe and worldwide to facilitate continuous supply of essential medicines to patients globally.

Protecting our people and our products

From the start of the pandemic, we took precautionary measures to ensure that both our people and our products were protected. We managed to contain the impact of the virus on our levels of production and supply of products with three primary protective measures:

  1. Smart working: We defined the people who were essential to keep production and operations moving, as well as the functions necessary to support those people. Only these individuals were permitted to physically go to the sites. Everyone else worked remotely. Limiting the number of people at the sites was fundamental to avoiding unnecessary interaction and greatly reducing the potential transmission of the virus. For those who worked remotely, our IT team made sure that everyone was equipped with all the right tools necessary to ensure uninterrupted work.
  2. Healthy working: We had to ensure that our employees remained healthy. We introduced prescreening of anyone coming to the site so that no one came in who represented a risk. This included a questionnaire, temperature monitoring, etc. We also implemented an enhanced medical service at each site, which was especially important at the beginning, when the virus gained momentum in Italy. A healthcare professional provided information and examinations so that employees would feel a sense of confidence that they were being well cared for.
  3. Safe working: We successfully secured personal protective equipment, e.g. masks, overalls, and gloves, for all employees on site, even when this was hard to come by. We also increased the frequency of sanitation in our facilities – cleaning and disinfecting more regularly, giving more access to sanitizers, and continuously running communication campaigns about social distancing and safe working practices. As safety protocols were issued by the government, we implemented each one in our facilities.

The impact on future manufacturing in Europe

COVID-19 has definitely changed the playing field. It will — and already has started to — stimulate companies and policy makers to reflect on the criteria that they are utilizing to source their products. If these expand to include ease of access, availability, and flexibility, then inevitably it will mean that certain manufacturing will remain in western countries, since it may not be sensible to rely solely on one region. To encourage production in Europe, policy makers need to put incentives in place to secure European investment in API manufacturing, thereby securing Europe’s manufacturing competitiveness globally. The European Commission is currently reflecting on a pharmaceutical strategy for the years to come and will drive policy initiatives which are crucial for the sustainability and resilience of API manufacturing – I am looking forward to seeing where that leads.

For example, it is important that policy makers strike a balance between the cost and availability of products in all markets, and understands the dynamics associated with that. For pharma companies to have access to APIs and for patients to have access to medicines, manufacturing and logistics need to be diversified and economically sustainable. I think that it is this realization, and the risk of future pandemics or significant world events, that will encourage countries to become more self-sufficient.

Where we’re going from here

The discussions about supply security have already started at Teva api. How do we optimize our network to mitigate future risks? How do we leverage the strengths we have based on the technologies and demographics of our products? Perhaps we should introduce measures that allow for additional flexibility, and award those who are complying with Europe’s access equity, resilience, and green ambitions — topics that policy makers should perhaps reflect on in cooperation with the sector.

As a manufacturing network, we want to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible, but these two factors do not automatically translate into access to essential medicines. Cost and efficiency are only a competitive advantage when coupled with a reliable and robust supply network.

As we review our network and move forward, we take strength in looking back at the past few months and what we have managed – and are still managing – to accomplish.

Onwards and upwards!

About the author

Paolo Fiorino is the Vice President & Managing Director of the Teva api Italy/Mexico Cluster. He leads six API manufacturing sites that are focused on producing high potent (steroids/anti-cancer) compounds.