Case Study

SMS for Life (A): A public-private collaboration to prevent stock-outs of life saving malaria drugs in Africa

20 pages
August 2010
Reference: IMD-3-2168

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease and a public health problem in over 100 countries worldwide. It causes about one million deaths each year; most of them are children under the age of five in Sub-Saharan Africa. The tragedy is that most of the deaths are preventable. Drugs to cure the disease exist, however they don’t reach the demand where it occurs and stock-outs of drugs to treat malaria cost lives. Jim Barrington, former chief information officer (CIO) at Novartis and current director of the SMS for Life project, had been trying to solve the problem since 2006, when he first heard about the “last mile” problem from Silvio Gabriel, executive vice president (EVP), Novartis Malaria Initiatives. The case talks about how he approached the supply-chain problem and established a public-private partnership to develop a simple solution suitable for the rugged African environment. The essential idea was to create an in-county forecasting system based on the use of SMS messaging between the health posts that dispense the drugs and the district and regional warehouses that distribute the drug. A data management system with a reporting interface using charts provided stock level information from all facilities to facilitate stock movement and supply, as well as improving stock forecasting and planning. The case describes the process of developing and implementing the solution through a pilot in three districts in Tanzania. The pilot was successful and the case ends with the question how to approach a country-wide and even a pan-African roll-out.

Learning Objective

There are three learning objectives, and ways to teach the case: 1) To discuss a new, collaborative way, involving private and public companies (and contrast it other available approaches), to solve world-wide problems, which demand solutions beyond the capabilities and responsibilities of single players. 2) How simple technology, e.g. based on available mobile phone networks, can solve supply chain problems in most difficult environments. 3) How external collaborations can bring innovation into well established multinational players, and have a potential impact on their business model.

Public-Private Partnership, Collaboration, Malaria, Supply Chain, Value-constellation
Novartis, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals
Field Research
© 2010
Available Languages
Related material
Teaching note, Video
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