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How to optimize your cold chain for biologics

Scientist works with biologic medical product

Biologics – large, complex molecule medications that typically offer a better therapeutic outcome than traditional medications – are one of the fastest-growing sectors in the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical Commerce is predicting a growth rate of 38 percent between 2015 and 2021. Consequently, it’s becoming increasingly 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 on your bottom line. Here are some ways you can protect your products and help optimize your supply chain for biologics.

What challenges are associated with cold chain logistics?

Pharmaceutical companies can expect to encounter a variety of challenges when managing complicated cold chains.

Most importantly, there’s the difficulty associated with maintaining a temperature-controlled shipping atmosphere. With shipments passing through a range of different environments and handlers, it can be difficult for pharmaceutical companies to ensure that products with specific condition tolerances are handled correctly. But it’s incredibly important that they find a way to do so, as failure to maintain the correct temperature can have a dramatic effect on efficacy and safety. According to Susan Li, Senior Cold Chain Packaging Strategist for UPS Temperature True® Packaging, “any deviations in temperature could affect the efficacy of these drugs. The challenge is how to mitigate the risk.”

There’s also the question of continuity, which is a crucial consideration for pharmaceutical companies. On-time delivery is a matter of urgency when it comes to biologics shipments, and having your cargo get lost somewhere in the middle of an unsecured cold chain may  have implications on your bottom line, brand image, and market share. It’s part of the reason why supply chain visibility tools, such as UPS Quantum View, are crucial for pharmaceutical companies that manage cold chains.

4 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 business’s 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 puts it like this: “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 UPS Proactive Response® 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, UPS Proactive Response® Secure 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. Solutions like UPS Quantum View®, for example, can track critical biologics parcels from shipment to delivery.

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.

Learn more about improving efficiency in your pharmaceutical cold chain.

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