Understanding the effects of the pandemic on Global access to medications and vaccines

Mina Tadrous, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy; Nelson Lee, Dalla Lana School of Public Health; Jeff Kwong, Dalla Lana School of Public Health; Jillian Kohler, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant adverse impact on the drug supply chain and the access to medicines on a global scale. Restrictions on travel and shipments resulted in disruptions in the supply of raw materials and finished products, causing delays and shortages in the global drug supply. Specific drugs, such as those used in the treatment for COVID-19, or those that were inappropriate but cited in social media as treatment drugs, or medications for symptomatic relief, surged in demand, increasing pressure on an already strained supply chain. Additionally, access to available treatments and vaccines was not equitable across populations. There is evidence that suggests these changes in drug utilization patterns may act as an early detection tool for outbreaks of COVID-19 which include increased spending on certain medications such as ‘cold and flu’ medicine. The objective of this research proposal is to study COVID-related drugs of interest on a global scale to address pandemic readiness, resilience, and recovery. To achieve this objective, our research will focus on understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug and vaccine utilization (including medical devices) and on COVID-19 drugs of interest. Additionally, we will determine if assessing drug utilization patterns can be leveraged to predict future outbreaks for the next pandemic. This pandemic has highlighted the need for a resilient and equitable drug supply chain and has also revealed the potential to complement existing surveillance systems for early detection of a pandemic.