Freight News, Logistics

Cold chain freight set for shake up in 2020

[ December 19, 2019   //   ]

Increased use of cell and gene therapy will add complexity to the distribution of temperature-controlled pharmceuticals in the coming year, predicts Kevin Lawler, vice president of worldwide sales at specialist packaging firm, Pelican BioThermal.

These therapies are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuation during transit and pharmaceutical manufacturers will demand increased confidence that these costly therapies will arrive on time, intact, and in temp, to their destinations.

He says: “A decade ago, costly biologics and a variety of cell and gene therapies were far outpaced by conventional chemical-based therapy. Traditional pricing models were standard practice. Technology was just trickling into healthcare with the push for electronic, portable health records. Sustainable practices were good to have — not a key decision-making factor.”

However: “With global pharmaceutical sales projected to climb to $1.18 trillion by 20241, it’s a certainty that change will continue into this next decade. The following four predictions are what we see on the immediate and not-so-distant horizon that will continue to transform the pharmaceutical and cold chain industries.”

With increased public scrutiny on the price and accessibility of pharmaceuticals worldwide, there will be continued focus on bringing pharmaceutical prices down, which could dismantle long-standing pricing models for drug developers. With the upcoming 2020 U.S. election, Congress will likely drive pricing reform — which will impact the development of drugs and specialty therapies and likely accelerate the release of generic and bio-similar versions to the market.

Cold chain packaging providers will be asked to provide more operational services on an outsourced basis such as support, conditioning, pick-and-pack and refurbishment — while needing to extend their global reach. Transportation providers (3PLs and Integrators) and contract manufacturers (CMOs and CDMOs) will also be asked to provide additional services such as thermal packaging, refrigeration, and pick-and-pack support. Lawler says: “As a result, we expect to see more alliances between packaging, transportation and contract manufacturing providers to leverage best-in-class capabilities to support increasingly cost-conscious global pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.”

Technology has also started to enter the pharmaceutical cold chain and is now gaining traction. Manufacturers are beginning to ask for real-time tracking of ambient and payload temperature, as well as RFID for location tracking and tracing. This will lead to more and more data being collected to assess challenging shipping lanes and distribution modes where temperature excursions and other issues arise. With technology to provide remote temperature management, alerts and global vision, pharmaceutical manufacturers will increasingly leverage this data to make smarter cold chain transportation decisions.

The use of reusable packaging continues to gain acceptance, and many pharmaceutical manufacturers are now requiring their vendors to demonstrate that their packaging and modes of transportation minimize negative effects on the environment.  Packaging providers are also being asked to provide tools to help pharmaceutical manufacturers measure their actual environmental impact so they can monitor and demonstrate their reductions in carbon footprint and waste.