“Epidemic” Changes in the Pharma Cold Chain
With its many safety standards and precautions, pharma is the most heavily regulated sector. For example, the Good Distribution Practice, or GDP, clearly defines how safety and quality of products are guaranteed, with rules for temperature monitoring, documentation and management. Despite the fixed regulations, the pharma cold chain is far from static. First, the market is growing quickly. Secondly, the pharma cold chain is changing quickly in response to multiple trends. The sheer speed and number of developments are causing changes of nearly epidemic proportions. What are the things we see happening in the pharma sector right now?
Increase in pharma transport
There are increasing numbers of medicines on the market that are temperature sensitive. One reason for this is, for example, that more people worldwide are suffering from diabetes and their medication must be chilled. There has also been a significant increase in vaccinations and many vaccines are temperature sensitive. These types of developments in the market mean the pharma cold chain is evolving quickly.
More and more biological medicines (biologicals) are being developed. These medicines are made from the proteins of living organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, plant cells or animal cells. These are often medications that inhibit inflammation by suppressing the immune system, a principle that is used in the treatment of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. Biologicals are sensitive to temperature and are relatively new products for the cold chain.
Another important development is that of precision medication. With this type of pharmaceuticals, the medicines are made precisely to match a patient's stem cells. For example, the stem cells are first sent to a laboratory that produces an exact drug composition, which is then transported back to the patient. This increases the need for finely tuned transport in the pharma cold chain.
Data is making it easier to predict the demand for medicines. This offers the cold chain the opportunity to scale more effectively and with better focus. As an example, data on pollens might be used to predict where and when the supply of hay fever medication needs to be increased. Also, hashtags like #sick or #flu can signal which vaccines and medicines will be in high demand. These can help the cold chain be better prepared for peaks and troughs in market demand.
One factor that complicates the efficient organization of cold chains is the number of acquisitions within the industry. Larger companies are buying up smaller, innovative businesses that are leading the way in the application of specific technologies. Each time there is a new acquisition, the cold chain must be reassessed and reorganized.
Brand monitoring is a serious problem for the pharma industry. There are many concurrent flows of so-called counterfeit medicines. Quality monitoring, compliance and security are therefore extra important for every company in the pharma cold chain. Doctors, pharmacists and patients need the assurance that they are receiving the right product.
The developments outlined here mean that new solutions are becoming increasingly necessary for dealing with the complexity, proving product quality and providing a flexible response to both market and organizational demands. Through years of experience in the market, VebaBox understands the dynamics of cold chains. With active and passive refrigeration solutions, a modular approach and technological innovations, VebaBox has a unique ability to respond to the needs of organizations within the rigid rules and regulations placed on the pharma cold chain.