As temperature control in distribution becomes more important for more products, the internet of things is helping the pharmaceutical sector improve the cost, quality and efficiency of its logistics activities.
The pharma cold chain has become an innovation hot spot. Worldwide, the life sciences sector spends around $14 billion every year on the transport and storage of products that need to be kept refrigerated or frozen. By value, temperature-controlled logistics make up only around 20% of the total pharmaceutical logistics market, but the share of products that require special temperature treatment is rising fast.
The term “cold chain” has given way to “temperature controlled” and typically refers to consistent, uninterrupted refrigeration of product through the end-to-end distribution cycle. Temperature-controlled transportation covers a broad spectrum of temperature ranges, including controlled room temperature (CRT, which refers to 15 C to 25 C/ 59 F to 77 F), refrigerated (2 C to 8 C/ 35.6 F to 46.4 F) or even cryogenic (below 0 C/ 32 F).
A wide range of drugs and related products require various forms of cold chain or refrigerated temperature-controlled storage, transportation and monitoring. They include long-established products such as insulin and vaccines, as well as newer biopharmaceutical products. By value, sales of temperature-sensitive products are rising at more than 10% annually, twice the overall growth rate of the pharma sector. And it isn’t just high-value, high-tech biological products that are driving the industry’s interest in temperature control. The Good Distribution Practice (GDP) guidelines used by many global, regional and national health organizations now require companies to understand and manage temperature-related risks for all pharmaceutical products. That is blurring the line between the traditional cold chain and conventional logistics approaches.
More worryingly, the cold chain is also a significant source of costs and quality challenges for pharma companies. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the industry loses product worth $2.5 billion to $12.5 billion every year as a result of problems with temperature control in transit, with half those losses occurring while shipments are in the hands of airlines or airports. Add in other costs, such as the need to make and ship replacement products and to analyze and fix the root cause of temperature deviations, and the estimated total cost to the industry approaches $35 billion.
Read More: The latest of cold chain