~~ Getting Patients a Drug That Works

October 25, 2017

David Marash

MENG, Keck Graduate Institute

Supply chain integrity is a fundamental component of effective patient treatment. The 10th annual Biosupply Management Alliance Conference highlighted many challenges and solutions in this space.

Thermal and vibrational shocks were singled out as major sources of deviation and product loss. Biologic therapeutics can undergo irreversible changes that reduce or eliminate their effectiveness if they are exposed to temperatures outside an acceptable range. Per CargoSense’s presentation, temperature deviations within the supply chain inflict $35 billion of losses on the pharmaceutical industry each year. Excessive physical stresses from handling and movement can similarly impact product integrity in transit. According to UPS’s presentation, drug product can be subjected to over 100,000 shocks from tarmac vibrations in a single shipment and these shocks are the greatest source of product loss in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Corporations with representatives present at BSMA ranging from FedEx and UPS to Bayer and Fisher have entire departments dedicated to counteracting these potential setbacks. They are constructed to collectively manage the entire scope of the pharmaceutical supply chain and ensure that the best possible processes are implemented with considerations towards cold-chain management, security and manifest integrity, and other factors.

            In an alternative approach to the problem, third-party vendors provide innovative technology that mitigates the transportation issues that current supply chain managers and transportation service providers can’t account for with improved processes. These companies are providing solutions that mitigate problems inherently associated with transportation processes, such as Envirotainer’s specialized containers that actively control internal temperature as a counter to the currently inevitable variability of temperature in transit.

Continued innovation in processes and technology will lower costs for the pharmaceutical industry and improve patient outcomes by providing a more robust supply of medication. Looking forward, outside-the-box solutions that eliminate rather than mitigate the major sources of deviation could have massive impact on supply chain efficiency and integrity.