Part of the solution

AmerisourceBergen associates act quickly to deliver essential medication for children with lead poisoning

This story begins with a frantic email. A child comes into the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago with severe lead poisoning. Lead is unsafe at any level—it can damage children's developing brains and contribute to kidney failure, heart disease and other health issues later in life.

The medical team administers the appropriate treatment, 2 amps of calcium disodium edetate. But that's when the trouble starts. The young patient needs another dose, but the hospital is out of stock. Jenny Russell, purchasing agent, pharmacy services at Lurie Children's asks their specialty distributor, ASD Healthcare, an AmerisourceBergen company, for a next-day delivery of the product. ASD is out of stock. Jenny asks local facilities if the hospital can borrow some, but, no luck.

She calls the manufacturer, the only supplier of this particular product, to ask if they would directly ship the calcium disodium edetate to Lurie Children's, ensuring it gets to the hospital (and the patient) quicker. Unfortunately, the manufacturer cannot accommodate Jenny's request; it's against protocol. Physicians then try an alternate and possibly less effective treatment to try to lower the child's lead levels.

Where is the product?

The patient doesn't respond as well to the alternate therapy as doctors had hoped, making it more urgent that they get the calcium treatment. Jenny sends an urgent email to Jean DiGiorgio, account executive, field sales, health systems and specialty services, at AmerisourceBergen. Why did ASD not have this critical medication in stock? When would they order more? How can this problem be prevented in the future?

Jean contacts the account team at ASD Healthcare, looking for answers. Jean learned that calcium disodium edetate has expiration dating of 45 days, and that most customers who were buying the product were returning it. From a business standpoint, then, it doesn't make sense for ASD to keep a large inventory on hand.

Be part of the solution

In the meantime, Matt Ruff, a buyer for ASD, works diligently behind the scenes. “A kid's life is on the line," he says. “When that situation arises and there's something I can do to help, it really changes the job. It's not just about numbers anymore." His actions reflect a guiding principle central to AmerisourceBergen's purpose: be part of the solution.

He has conversations with the manufacturer to ask them to set up direct delivery to the hospital, a scenario the manufacturer had never faced before. “We had to ask them almost ten times until they bent the rules." Matt implements new delivery instructions to make sure the product is delivered directly to the inpatient pharmacy. The young patient successfully receives the treatment.

This is not the end of the story. A few weeks later, another child is admitted to Lurie Children's with lead poisoning. Jean reaches out to Matt and other ASD Healthcare associates to see if they can work their magic again. This time, the manufacturer has no calcium disodium edetate on hand and claims there is almost none available in the country.

“Clearly, there is a need for this product. If this is so lifesaving, why does it have such short dating and why is it unavailable?" Jean wonders.

Again, Matt works to be part of the solution and advocate for the patient. He looks into recent order histories in the Chicago area to see if Jenny can procure the treatment from a neighboring hospital. Lurie Children's is able to borrow the doses for this second child from another facility, thanks in large part to Matt's detective work.

"A kid's life is on the line. It's not just about numbers anymore."

Matt Ruff, Buyer II, ASD Healthcare

Stay solution-oriented

These situations highlight the value of AmerisourceBergen's role in the supply chain. “It helped that we had a relationship with the supplier," Matt says. ASD Healthcare leveraged that relationship to partner with the manufacturer to take unprecedented actions for the health of the first child.

Matt says, “We were able to solve the problem and that's a testament to everyone in the supply chain. Everyone communicated and stayed solution-oriented."

Although these young patients and their families and medical providers may view these actions as above and beyond, they are the essence of what associates at AmerisourceBergen do every day. “I don't have to think twice to incorporate our values," says Matt.

Learn more about how we improve access across the continuum of care.