Pharmaceutical Industry Pushing the Bounds of Cold Chain Management

In today’s fast-paced world, technological advancement and innovation are omnipresent in every field of study. The pharmaceutical industry is not immune to this rapid progress, but this business faces a unique supply chain management issue.

Innovation in this field has increased the need for creative solutions in cold chain management to handle the ever-increasing demand for transportation of temperature-sensitive biological products and pharmaceuticals over international routes.

New Trends
Advancement in the fields of cryogenics and 3D printing of cellular material are pushing the boundaries of requirements and possibilities, but the pharmaceutical industry has to partner up with third-party supply chain management services to ensure that together they can meet the challenges of healthcare in the 21st century.

New medications are not only growing in number, but they are also becoming extremely specialized and have strict requirements. For instance, EvaluatePharma’s survey of the industry indicated that in 2018 70% of the top 10 specialized medication will be temperature-sensitive drugs.

Developments in technological possibilities are also pushing the envelope. Bioprinting is a technology many scientists are researching and it has tremendous potential in health circles. The technology permits the “printing” of body parts by using cellular material from the patient, decreasing substantially the possibilities of rejection of vital organs. Although this is still far from being implemented in a real-life scenario, the technology is in the pipelines and it will require revolutionary changes in transportation and storage solutions. Preserving and transporting biomaterial will be unlike any other challenge faced by cold chain management.

Access to cheap sensors has made Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is viable option in every industry and it includes the healthcare market. The gathering and analysis of big data will allow pharmaceutical manufacturers to invest in product recall systems, create advance drug shortage systems and track temperature of sensitive drugs among a myriad of other solutions that will affect supply chain management in this industry.

It used to be that dry ice was sufficient for transportation companies involved in the cold chain, but dry ice (which can reach -78°C) is no longer sufficient and is dangerous as well since it emits carbon gas. New gene and cell-based therapies require storage and transportation of biological products at temperatures below -130°C. Cryogenic advancements must therefore be adopted by cold chain management service providers to ensure they can meet the demands of the healthcare industry.

Partnership is Required
Drug manufacturers will know in-depth their internal processes and supply chain issues, but may not be too familiar with the challenges faced by cold chain management services. To find the right solutions, third-party cold chain service providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers must work hand-in-hand to find creative solutions to atypical problems.

An interesting example is of UPS and one of their pharmaceutical clients who required transportation of biological material from Eastern US to Brazil via airfreight. UPS shared their knowledge of the global transportation system and suggested cold chain transportation by road to a southern airport before a connecting to a direct flight to Brazil.

UPS was also able to analyze its data to suggest which peak days to avoid, bringing down costs. By working together, being flexible and leveraging their knowledge of their systems, the companies were able save millions of dollars while ensuring temperature requirements were met throughout the journey.

Better Solutions

Overall, pharmaceutical companies are reporting less spoilage and product damage than in previous years and the top reasons provided by the industry is better monitoring of temperature during every part of the cold chain route and improved partnerships and communication with top carriers.

As healthcare technologies develop, so will the need for unique cold chain management solutions and the best way forward is for all concerned parties to embrace up-to-date technologies and work together to find just as unique solutions.