5 ways to optimize your cold chain for biologics

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Biologics – large, complex molecule medications that typically offer a better therapeutic outcome for patients than traditional medications – are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the pharmaceutical industry.

In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's become exponentially important for pharmaceutical companies to optimize their temperature-controlled supply chains, or cold chains. This is especially true when you factor in the extremely high value of many biologic drugs, where mishandling has the potential to have a serious impact not only on patients, but also on your bottom line, brand image, and market share.

Cold chain logistics challenges and how to overcome them

Pharmaceutical companies face a variety of challenges when managing complicated cold chains. Shipments pass through a variety of environments and handlers. It's critical that strict temperature requirements are maintained and that you have full visibility from end to end, .

According to Susan Li, Senior Cold Chain Packaging Strategist for UPS Healthcare™ Cold Chain Solutions Packaging, "any deviations in temperature could affect the safety and efficacy of these drugs. The challenge is how to mitigate the risk."

On-time delivery is another matter of urgency when it comes to biologics shipments. Having your cargo get lost somewhere in the middle of an unsecured cold chain may have implications on your revenues, brand image, and market share. It's part of the reason why supply chain visibility tools, such UPS Supply Chain Symphony are crucial for pharmaceutical companies that manage cold chains. Here are some ways you can protect your products and help optimize your supply chain for biologics.

Four best practices to incorporate in your cold chain

As you can see, cold chain logistics has plenty of associated challenges. These four practices may help you improve your temperature-controlled shipping:

1. Utilize cold chain packaging solutions

Optimized tertiary cold chain packaging may be one of the best ways to ensure the efficacy and safety of temperature-sensitive biologics. "Packaging can be one of the first lines of defense to help ensure product integrity, maintain potency, and potentially prevent product spoilage," says Li. "Inappropriate packaging can be one of the main causes of spoilage."

Optimized packaging may also have a substantial impact on your bottom line. With reduced spoilage, reduced shipping charges, reduced inventory requirements, and even reduced shipping costs due to lower weight, companies may potentially save thousands of dollars.

Rather than try to figure out the best packaging for your products on your own, you can consult with healthcare packaging experts at UPS.

2. Make sure you have a contingency plan

Expecting the unexpected is critical for cold chain logistics professionals.

Li explains that, "In an ideal world, everything goes smoothly. But there are always unexpected incidents, from weather to natural disasters like wildfires and floods. During all these incidents, the supply chain can be disrupted. It's always a good idea to plan contingency solutions." And as cold chain logistics increase in complexity and length of supply chain, temperature-sensitive biologics are exposed to greater levels of risk, raising the chances of spoilage.

The importance of advance contingency planning is clear, particularly when it comes to the bottom line. Li says: "It's very important to have these procedures in place in advance, so that when the incident happens, we can step in with a pre-arranged contingency plan and protect your shipments when they're at risk, which is great for your bottom line."

Logistics providers can assist pharmaceutical companies by helping them create a plan that identifies and helps mitigate risk.

"We have a special product called as UPS Premier™ that helps us intercept at-risk packages and intervene according to the preapproved business plan, which is especially important for temperature-sensitive products," says Li. Providing an added layer of insurance protection, as UPS Premier delivers all of the above but also compensates shippers for any loss, offering extra peace of mind.

3. Invest in tools for better visibility

Disruptions in the cold chain may put temperature-controlled shipping products at risk. Monitoring tools can help to protect critical shipments, and help make sure they arrive at the right time and in the right condition.

There are two different methods of temperature monitoring: active and passive. Active monitoring gives you updates on your shipment's temperature and status. It's generally used for especially important shipments, such as clinical trials, rather than more standard cold chain shipments.

The right logistics provider can offer monitoring tools that can help your business gain end-to-end visibility into the cold chain, potentially decreasing the rates of product spoilage and helping make sure your customers have a higher satisfaction rate.

According to the UPS Pain in the (Supply) Chain survey, 59% of respondents who successfully addressed product spoilage concerns had used some type of temperature monitoring devices. There are plenty of tools that can help to provide visibility across the supply chain.

4. Optimize for the last mile

During last mile distribution, the risk facing cold chain shipments is potentially greater than it is at any other point in the supply chain. Last mile shipments frequently have to travel through a vast range of different environments, and pharmaceutical companies may have fewer opportunities to conduct ambient temperature environment studies for all the different shipping lanes that come into play.

There's also the issue of on-time delivery. Getting your biologics shipment delivered on time and free of any temperature excursions isn't always easy. From address errors to mechanical issues, there are plenty of potential pitfalls.

Bottom line

The integrity of biologics shipments is crucial, which is why temperature-controlled shipping solutions like cold chain packaging and monitoring are so vital. Contact us if you’re looking for ways to improve efficiency in your pharmaceutical cold chain.

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