DSCSA 2023 guidelines from HDA conference and FDA stabilization period

Sep 7, 2023
By Christine Gallagher

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) has long been at the forefront of discussions surrounding pharmaceutical supply chain security. In recent times, the pharmaceutical industry has witnessed significant regulatory changes, including an enforcement delay for the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). This delay is labeled a “Stabilization” period by the FDA and is pivotal in addressing evolving challenges and further fortifying the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain. It is important to reiterate that the November 27, 2023 deadline for the full interoperable supply chain provisions of DSCSA is still in force—the FDA has just announced discretion in enforcing for one year. In this post, we will explore two important developments in the realm of DSCSA—the HDA conference and the FDA stabilization period—and their implications for the industry.

The HDA conference: Fostering collaboration and innovation 

The HDA is a vital organization that represents pharmaceutical distributors nationwide. Each year, the HDA conference brings together industry leaders, stakeholders and regulators to discuss pressing issues and share insights on improving the drug supply chain. The conference serves as a platform for fostering collaboration and innovation, enabling participants to exchange best practices, address challenges and stay abreast of the latest industry trends. 

At the HDA conference, experts delve into various aspects of the DSCSA, such as serialization, track-and-trace technologies data management, and exception handling. Participants gain valuable insights into implementing compliant systems, optimizing supply chain operations and mitigating risks associated with counterfeit drugs. The conference also highlights emerging technologies like blockchain, which offer potential solutions for enhancing traceability and transparency within the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The FDA stabilization period: What it means 

Recognizing the complexity and scale of implementing DSCSA requirements, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a stabilization period to facilitate better testing and validation of all the systems involved in delivering compliance. Multiple factors played a role in the FDA’s approval of the request for a stabilization period. These included challenges faced by the largest distributors, such as the possibility of quarantining 40% of their drug supply and accommodate them in trailers because of data misalignment exceptions The stabilization period allows stakeholders to address operational challenges and ensure all systems and integrations are ready to comply with the DSCSA regulations.

During this period, the FDA focuses on educating and guiding industry participants, providing clarification on regulatory expectations and offering technical assistance. The stabilization period aims to strike a balance between enforcing compliance and supporting stakeholders as they implement, test and validate the requirements for an extended time after the regulation goes live this year. 

The implications for the industry 

The FDA stabilization period has significant implications for the pharmaceutical industry as highlighted at the HDA conference: When the law is enforced in November 2024, all layers of the pharmaceutical supply chain will face accountability. It’s the proverbial “go time”, and the industry must be ready. This extended window will hopefully allow the industry to be so. Many of Systech’s customers are ready today, and we are eager to enable those who aren’t.

1. Collaboration and knowledge sharing: The HDA conference encourages collaboration among industry stakeholders, fostering knowledge sharing and the exchange of best practices. This collective effort helps to enhance the overall security and efficiency of the drug supply chain. The conference this year had to pivot significantly, shifting its focus from “compliance by November 2023” to “stabilization through November 2024.” The HDA has requested an extension until 2026, but it appears unlikely that the FDA will grant approval for this extension.

2. Compliance and operational optimization: The stabilization period provides the industry with a breathing space to test and validate operations, integrations and data to be in line with DSCSA regulations. This phased approach allows stakeholders to optimize their systems, minimize disruptions and ensure compliance without compromising patient safety.

3. Technological advancements: Both the HDA conference and the stabilization period encourage the exploration and adoption of innovative technologies. From track-and-trace solutions to blockchain applications, these advancements offer opportunities to enhance traceability, transparency and accountability within the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The HDA conference and the FDA stabilization period play crucial roles in shaping the future of the pharmaceutical supply chain under the DSCSA. All stakeholders in attendance, manufacturers, wholesalers, dispensers, had a distinct message: Maintain full throttle and utilize the one-year stabilization period to ensure the goals of DSCSA, an interoperable supply chain, are met.

These initiatives promote collaboration, knowledge sharing and operational optimization—enabling the industry to navigate the complexities of compliance while safeguarding patient safety and the integrity of the drug supply. By staying informed and actively participating in these events, stakeholders can stay ahead of the curve and contribute to building a secure and resilient drug supply chain for the benefit of all.



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