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As part of its work to improve healthcare systems on the continent by cultivating collaboration between African governments and private sector parties with supply chain expertise, ARC has established a Private Sector Advisory Board.

The enormity of the coronavirus epidemic has been a catalyst for many of the companies represented on the board to apply their expertise and resources to making a difference during this global health crisis.


Pharmaceutical product manufacturer and service provider Novo Nordisk is partnering with suppliers and authorities across the globe to secure access to lifesaving chronic medications, particularly diabetes medications and devices. For more information on the company and its initiatives, visit the Novo Nordisk COVID-19 response page.

As an established provider of critical chronic medicines across a global network, Novo Nordisk has experience maintaining medicine supply chains during localised emergencies, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. However, as Andrew Finnegan, the Head of Supply Chain for Logistics and IT at Novo Nordisk explains, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a perfect storm of all emergency eventualities happening simultaneously around the globe.

Novo Nordisk’s refined crisis response systems from situations like the one in Japan, meant that it was quick to adapt its supply chain when the novel coronavirus outbreak stared. As early as January 2020, it had identified the need to modify its supply chain and manufacturing processes in China to ensure it could continue providing medicines to those who needed them while the country faced a surge of COVID-19 cases. It then swiftly expanded its response to incorporate Europe, which was the next region to become an epicentre for the pandemic.

The company has developed supply chain response systems and data analysis that have allowed it to prepare ahead of time for peaks in the virus’ impact in different regions. In South America, weeks before the pandemic began to escalate to exponential levels of infection, Novo Nordisk had identified risks and systems that needed to be in place for its supply of medicines to the region.

Centralised communication

The cornerstone of Novo Nordisk’s successful response has been the adaptation of its organisational structure to create a single point of contact for all COVID-19 related communication. Finnegan is that axis point and he effectively functions as a traffic controller – allocating queries, directives and a multitude of requirements from within the supply chain to the relevant person on the Novo Nordisk crisis response team. This has given governments, customers and suppliers a clear point of access when needing information about medicines supplies from the company, anywhere in the world.

Finnegan says he has the best people from each of the company’s divisions represented on the crisis response team and that people have been effective and efficient in implementing solutions. “It’s so important when you’re in a crisis that people trust that the right decisions have been made and they execute them with confidence,” he adds. Having one voice connecting the different elements of the business has reduced confusion and allowed a cohesive message to be communicated on all fronts, increasing response speed. The team has been given a mandate and decision-making power in order to produce and make medicines available to those who need them as fast as possible.

Evolved planning

As the pandemic has unfolded, it has been necessary to increase the planning window, says Finnegan. “At first the approach is to live today to fight tomorrow – the focus is on immediate needs. Then the planning needs to extend beyond that.” This is where Novo Nordisk’s use of data analysis has come into play. It is able to pre-empt some of the challenges that will be faced by its different manufacturing and distribution elements in each region, and is working to mitigate perceived challenges in the short, medium and long term. “Proactiveness allows you to be prepared when the eventuality does arise,” he says.

Empowering the supply chain

One of the unique approaches Novo Nordisk has undertaken is to provide documentation to its suppliers, right down to the level of truck drivers, to motivate for freedom of movement in order to supply elements for critical medicines. As governments around the world grapple with what to allow and prohibit during lockdowns and shelter-at-home regulations, it is challenging for them to identify all the elements of the supply chain. Something like glass bottle production, which may not be immediately obvious, is essential for medicine production and distribution. Providing documentation explaining their connection to the supply of critical medicines has been a key way of helping suppliers in different political contexts. This has been particularly pertinent where border access has been significantly restricted between countries and is something that continually needs to be addressed from a logistics point of view.


Novo Nordisk is also regularly dialoguing with governments to help them see how to ensure their populations are able to get medicines that they need, including identifying the different components of the healthcare supply chain. This type of engagement reflects another important aspect of Novo Nordisk’s response – collaboration. Jane Rasmussen, Director of Shipping and Service, says that collaboration across industries has been a positive aspect of the global response to COVID-19. “I see a different approach to collaboration at the moment where we are trying to help each other out instead of just thinking, ‘What’s good for my business?’. People feel a joint responsibility for fixing problems across industries,” she says.

Free insulin and donations

In addition to its immense efforts to maintain a critical medicine supply chain, Novo Nordisk has made significant donations to various COVID-19 response efforts, including financial donations, contributions of personal protective equipment and supplies of alcohol for the production of sanitizer. Significantly, the company is also offering free insulin to patients financially impacted by the pandemic and free transport of insulin for some governments during the pandemic.