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An In-Depth Look at Challenges in Pharmaceutical Logistics

The global market for pharmaceutical logistics was estimated to be worth $69.0 billion in 2019. Market research studies also predicted a compounded annual growth rate of 7.3 percent between 2020 and 2027 for the market.

 

But in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, it should come as no surprise that there has been significant attention paid to this market – as most governments and corporations across the world remain concerned about the efficient delivery of vaccines in the shortest possible time.

While the market has historically been driven by brisk demand for over the counter (OTC) medicines, there are still roadblocks to overcome with regard to delivery logistics. To remove these barriers, the industry needs to have a deep understanding of the intricate operational structure of global pharmaceutical logistics. It is a massive system that involves tens of thousands of people, countless facilities, and more than a fair share of extremely difficult-to-reach transportation destinations.

It is important to understand the challenges such a complex structure presents and the core reasons behind these challenges – and how these challenges actually serve deterrents to achieving desired and much-needed efficiencies.

 

As a key player in global cold-chain logistics, and in support of the burgeoning field of pharmaceutical logistics specifically, Prime Logistics is taking multiple steps to address these challenges by applying efficient innovations coupled with the right kind of thinking.

Case in Point: Through its relationship with the World Cargo Association (WCA), Prime Logistics General Manager Edgar Campana recently became the first logistics professional in all of the U.S. to earn the prestigious “Responsible Person Certification for Logistics (for Good Distribution of Medicinal Products for Human Use).”

 

This important certification signifies to the cargo world that Prime Logistics has a representative on staff with a thorough understanding of the vast regulatory requirements for storage and distribution of materials for medicinal products in the pharmaceutical industry – not just in the U.S., but across the entire freight forwarding community worldwide.

Dependency on Human Resource

Handling the inventory, tracking orders, and managing the dispatches involves significant human interplay. And sometimes, where there’s human involvement, there can be a lack of coordination. As a result, there is the potential that dangerous medicines may reach the wrong recipient.

 

Consumers often receive a cheaper version or counterfeited version of the original product that they had ordered. That’s why reducing the level of human resource dependency to make way for greater automation has long been a concern for pharmaceutical companies. The introduction of the Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), intends to limit such errors or deliberate faults. As a global logistics leader, Prime Logistics has a keen eye on advancing automation by working with distributors that are deploying advanced digital logistics capabilities.

 

Temperature Control

Pharmaceutical products are extremely temperature-sensitive. While in transit, an imbalance in temperature may often end up rendering the product useless. Suppliers often set the initial temperature during dispatch. The product’s optimal temperature is tracked in real-time and necessary changes are made as and when required. Cold chain logistics must quickly adapt to the growing demands of proper medicinal delivery. The logistics companies should also make investments in procuring refrigerated fleets and transit facilities.

 

A much-diversified delivery route works as a deterrent when it comes to maintaining the temperature of the product up and down the chain. Companies should therefore optimize delivery routes and make sure that their vendors are well equipped for maintaining temperature control when it comes to outsourced deliveries.

Prime Logistics’ recent installation of ColdMax vacuum coolers at its Bogota facility is one such example where investments in temperature control mechanisms proved cost-effective for the company and beneficial for end-users in terms of getting fresh, safe, and longer-lasting products.

 

Damaged Products

Damaged products are much larger a concern for the world of pharmaceuticals than for other types of product. Damage to the overall packing material is considered as full-fledged damage to the entire unit, even though the capsules or bottles or the blister packs are untouched within. Damages are also a matter of grave concern because pharmaceutical products often contain ingredients that may prove harmful if exposed to air. In fact, pharmaceuticals such as cytotoxics are often categorized as hazardous materials.

 

Oftentimes, an improper pallet also is a root cause of pharmaceutical products being damaged. If the structure of the box is loose and the pallets are inconsistent in size, it may lead to gradual damage in the entire batch along the edges and corners of the stack. Wooden boxes also suffer from the issue of protruding nails that frequently come loose and cause damage. It is recommended plastic pallets are used, as they have much higher consistency of size – and no menacing wood-nails that can cause punctures.

 

Be it a box or a pallet, Prime Logistics’ industry-leading technology guarantees consistent, safe, and fresh delivery of any type of perishable goods, right through the last-mile to the delivery point.

 

Storage Shortage

Pharmaceutical products are prone to contamination, expiration, and theft. Many times, the correct amount of supply ends up falling short of the anticipated number of delivery units. The last mile participants, such as doctors and healthcare workers, frequently suffer from this issue.

This problem can be solved by maintaining excess inventory, but to do so requires space. Therefore, to improve the resilience of pharmaceutical logistics, facilities should invest in additional storage space that is secure, well guarded, and adequately temperature controlled. Prime Logistics’ wide network of delivery locations includes top quality in-house services and warehouse management. Additionally, it also boasts its own cold-storage facilities at strategic delivery locations around the world.

 

Sanitation

Sanitation is a factor that plays an important role throughout the supply chain. The initial inventory, the delivery vehicles and fleets, and the storage before delivery should maintain the required level of sanitation. Lack of sanitized spaces, especially in the delivery fleets of vehicles, often ends up contaminating the products. Surfaces that absorb moisture, or can be prone to the growth of bacteria or fungi are strictly prohibited in medicinal delivery. The agents of the supply chain should also be mindful of the type of sanitizer they use.

Overall, when it comes to cleanliness and sanitation, Prime Logistics, as a market leader, ensures their customer products are not subject to contamination before making it to market. The company’s reputation rests on its high standard of care and attention in the storage and transit of medicines so that they maintain their intended shelf-life.

 

Security

Life-saving high-cost drugs or technologically sophisticated biologics are often the target of miscreants. International cartels often attempt to steal these products during delivery to sell them at cheaper prices or to counterfeit them. Logistics companies and manufacturing firms must invest appropriately in making these deliveries secure.

Each transit point should have appropriate security deployments in place. These transits include those between the manufacturing location and the warehouse, the warehouse, and the delivery fleets, and the delivery fleets and delivery-location storage. It is also important to have a security framework in place in the last-mile delivery phase. There should be a robust mechanism to ensure that products reach the intended recipient – and not get diverted to unlisted wholesalers or suppliers.

As a distinct service offer to its customers, Prime Logistics has invested in employee skills specifically within the area of perishables and pharmaceuticals logistics. Through our relationship with the World Cargo Association (WCA), multiple staff members among the Prime Group companies now boast “Anti-Bribery & Corruption Certifications,” ensuring that key security measures are in place that protect the material they have been entrusted to handle. They also have high-tech and efficient systems in place to track and trace cargo at any given point in time.

 

Regulations

Although governments and pharmaceutical regulatory bodies across the globe have been trying their best to create uniform guidelines of delivery, there are still multiple imbalances across many nations when it comes to specialized drugs. Countries have different standards of operating procedure that affect international deliveries and/or internal deliveries.

Variations in weather between two countries also drives differences between the delivery mechanisms of the two countries. Addressing these separate regulatory guidelines is often a considerable challenge. Pharmaceutical and logistics companies need to make necessary technological investments so that these transitions in regulatory conditions can be done in a hassle-free and paperless fashion. Some concerted efforts have been made to bring improvements in this area.

 

The guidelines of Goods Distribution Practice for medicinal products have helped to extend the coverage for over-the-counter drugs and do in fact endeavor to regulate temperature requirements to achieve greater homogeneity. Appropriate knowledge of the regulations and strict adherence to rules may seem cumbersome, but serves all parties well in the long run by limiting rejection costs or penalty fees.

With its global network of strategic offices and warehouses across the U.S., Latin America, and Europe, Prime Group is well positioned with a hands-on understanding and ability to manage these international differences smoothly, to minimize any unnecessary delays.

 

Cost of Technology

Many of these issues related to the intricate operational structure of global pharmaceutical logistics have one commonality. Addressing most of these challenges will require investments in enhanced technology. Starting with the handling of inventory in the warehouse to successful last-mile delivery, and along the entire span of the cold chain, there are multiple opportunities for respective technological intervention.

 

At a minimum, warehouses, delivery fleets, and delivery-area storage facilities must have appropriate temperature-control mechanisms in place, load-tested, and with little chance of failure under any conditions. The cold supply chain needs investment in software technology to meet any given demand-supply scenario at any given time. It also needs investment in tracking technology that enables a manufacturer or the procurer to track the temperature, humidity, and such necessary conditions at any point along the way, from point A to B.

 

Manufacturers and logistics vendors that are holding back on making such investments, are doing so at their own risk – with only short-term gains in mind. The problem is, a lack of such investment ultimately weakens the elements of the supply chain over time. They start performing below their intended capacity, which results in increases the overall cost of operations.

Prime Logistics approaches technological efficiency with the utmost seriousness. The company consistently pursues technological solutions and makes the investment where it must at each key phase of the cold supply chain. These phases include facilities of pre-cooling, temperature monitoring, refrigerated trucking, and more.

 

Prime Logistics’ top-tier logistics services and expertise stand as testimony that the best approach to ensuring mitigation of all the potential challenges in pharmaceutical delivery, is a proper understanding of the bottlenecks and a strong resolve to address them in time – every time.

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