Monday, June 24, 2013

Should Pharmaceutical Production be Outsourced -- Competing on Quality

With the 2013 INFORMS Healthcare Conference in full swing in Chicago, I thought it appropriate to highlight some recent research on quality competition and the outsourcing of the production of pharmaceuticals (medicines).

Medicines are essential to healing and, hence, their quality is paramount to health.

I have written on healthcare supply chains on this blog on multiple occasions from the broken humanitarian healthcare supply chain to medical nuclear supply chains to advanced analytics for pharmaceutical supply chains.  Our book, Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Analytics for Perishable Products, published by Springer in 2013, contains several chapters focused on healthcare supply chains.

And, my most recent PhD student at the Isenberg School of Management, in Management Science,  Amir H. Masoumi, successfully defended his dissertation entitled Supply Chain Management  of Perishable Products with Applications to Healthcare, so clearly there is also great interest in healthcare applications among our students. My interest in healthcare supply chains, grew in part, because of the work with Amir, beginning with blood supply chains, which was a special interest of his.

Professor Hari Balasubramanian, who is the Program Chair of the 2013 INFORMS Healthcare Conference, was on Amir's doctoral dissertation committee.

Most recently, we have been researching quality competition, beginning with the paper, A Dynamic Network Oligopoly Model with Transportation Costs, Product Differentiation, and Quality Competition, Anna Nagurney and Dong Li, which is in press in the journal, Computational Economics.

Given the importance of healthcare and pharmaceuticals, as well as the growth in the outsourcing of pharma production globally, along with numerous issues raised in terms of quality, it was important to investigate how math modeling could contribute to issues of quality, reputation, outsourcing, and competition.

Our paper, Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Networks with Outsourcing Under Price and Quality Competition,
Anna Nagurney, Dong Li, and Ladimer S. Nagurney, is now in press in the journal, International Transactions in Operational Research. This paper quantifies the effects of quality levels on a firm's reputation and develops a game theory model of outsourcing for a pharmaceutical firm. We developed both a static version (at the equilibrium state) and a dynamic version to illustrate how the quantity and quality levels evolve over time. We utilized variational inequality theory for the former and projected dynamical systems for the latter.

Math modeling, operations research (O.R.), and analytics are contributing tremendously to the understanding of healthcare issues in our society. Doing Good  with Good O.R. continues as a theme of our profession.