Bridging the Gap for Global Healthcare Access

I+solutions, based in Woerden, is an international player making a difference for numberour hospitals in the Global South. Edward, or “Ed” Monchen, the passionate entrepreneur behind i+solutions, discusses their unique approach in providing essential medications to underserved regions around the world. He emphasizes the importance of balancing profit with social impact and takes a nuanced approach in an industry often dominated by pharmaceutical giants.

20 October 2023 4 minutes

I+solutions excels in international logistics, managing around 3000 containers annually, ensuring medicines reach even the most remote healthcare facilities. Their annual revenue of 800 million demonstrates their effectiveness. The organization’s mission is clear: to improve and save lives by ensuring access to vital medications worldwide. They combine procurement, training, project management, quality control, and technical expertise to bridge the gap between patients and essential medicines.

Improvements in efficiency from India to “The Last Mile”

The global pharmaceutical industry is a complex and interconnected network, and medicines are manufactured in countries such as the United States, India and China, among others. India, in particular, is a major player in the production of generic medicines, which are often more affordable and accessible for many countries in the global South.

The “last mile” problem in medicine delivery to hospitals in the global South refers to the challenges of getting medications from central distribution points to healthcare facilities. These challenges include inadequate infrastructure, poor storage and handling conditions, limited healthcare staff, lack of tracking systems, and regulatory obstacles. Solving the last mile problem requires improving transportation, storage, training healthcare workers, implementing tracking systems, and addressing local healthcare practices. Overcoming these challenges is crucial to ensuring that essential medicines reach the people who need them, especially in resource-limited regions of the global South.

The discussion delves into challenges related to medication accessibility in developing countries, focusing on areas such as malaria, tuberculosis, reproductive healthcare, and HIV. Monchen underscores the importance of improving the “last mile delivery” to prevent shortages, which requires accurate and timely data. “This is the most difficult mile, but we use new technologies to make sure the medicines end up where they should.”

Their reach is extensive, delivering medicines to remote regions in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and in the mountains of Ethiopia. Their procurement activities span 120 countries worldwide, including low-middle income countries in Asia and South America, as well as Eastern European nations like Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.

The global pharmaceutical supply chain starts with raw materials, with India producing 90% of all medicines. I+solutions sources generic drugs from India, entrusting international transport to specialized partners to ensure timely delivery. They employ a tracking system in each country to monitor goods and ensure they reach their intended destination.

A global fund helps effectiveness

I+solutions’ ability to pool resources for efficient procurement is informed by lessons learned from the AIDS epidemic. They are now engaged in addressing COVID-19 through the Global Fund, known as “pandemic preparedness.”

While they currently focus on diseases with immediate global economic impacts, like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, they are considering expanding their efforts to address chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. Meanwhile, their expertise and procurement power remain at the disposal of those in need.

Innovative solutions

I+solutions stands out for its innovative solutions, such as Medexis, a logistics management tool implemented in collaboration with the Burundian government. This innovation significantly improved product availability and reduced stock expirations.

Monchen highlights the importance of addressing the “last mile” in healthcare delivery, particularly in challenging regions like Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They utilize the Informed Push Model (IPM), organizing medicine distribution via motorbike taxis and involving the community in inventory management.

The organization’s location in Woerden proves strategically advantageous, with proximity to Utrecht providing access to talent from local universities. Monchen commends the regional development agency, ROM Utrecht Region, for their active role in the international network.

I+solutions remains dedicated to constantly enhancing the pharmaceutical supply chain and achieving their mission of global healthcare access.

Text and photography: Jos Hummelen, ROM Utrecht Region

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