Cold Chain Packaging Trends

Susan Li of UPS discusses supply chain trends, challenges and packaging innovations.

Kristin Brooks | Contract Pharma

The pharmaceutical supply chain presents many challenges in and of itself, such as the threat of counterfeits, specialized biopharmaceuticals with strict temperature and handling requirements, costly and unsustainable materials, and regulatory compliance in an increasingly global marketplace, to name a few.

Susan Li

Susan Li

As drug products change, cold chain packaging is evolving to help address some of these complexities.

Susan Li of UPS discusses pharma and biopharma trends impacting packaging, serialization and the supply chain, challenges, and packaging innovations.

What are the growth areas or trends you’re seeing from pharma/biopharma that are impacting packaging?

There is an increasing number of specialized biopharmaceuticals being brought to market that require temperature-sensitive packaging.

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Demand for these products is growing and expanding.

At the same time, the demand for these products is also growing and expanding to emerging markets.

Worldwide, revenues from biologics, which accounted for 12% of all drug sales in 2005, are expected to grow to 23% by 2017, according to Evaluate Pharma 2013.

Moreover, specialty drug spending in the U.S. is expected to quadruple from $87.1 billion in 2012 to $401.7 billion in 2020.

More global clinical trials are requiring stricter temperature regulations, further driving the need for innovative cold chain packaging.

As cold chain packaging and shipping trends evolve, pharmaceutical manufacturers will continue to move toward more secure temperature-sensitive shipping solutions, particularly during new last-mile transportation.

Shippers are taking advantage of more complete protection of payloads end-to-end, as well as leveraging data from their carriers, such as ambient temperature environment, package orientations, etc. to develop more effective last-mile solutions.

For small packages — but particularly for freight — that means more controlled-room temperature (CRT) solutions requiring enhanced ambient environments.

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What are some of the latest capabilities/recent advances with packaging? In what areas do packaging complexities/challenges persist?

New phase change material (PCM) is improving packout efficiencies with higher latent heat.

However, cost is still an issue to further advance the application of such technology.

Furthermore, the use of thermal blankets in freight shipments is offering cost-effective protection for previously unprotected products.

Even when it comes to manufacturersales representatives’ product samples, there previously was less protection than there is today.

Providing the right temperature controls from car to cooler to glove compartment have evolved, as more focus on product protection expand beyond distribution of samples into last-mile deliveries.

Also, complexities that persist include intermodal transportation, which impacts pharmaceutical packaging.

Extended time in transit on inland transportation movements exposes the packaging to temperature fluctuations, increasing risk.

Ocean transportation increases risks through container placement on the vessel, sunlight exposure, container insulation, and dwell time on the dock, all introducing additional packaging stressors.

How are pharma/biopharma packaging needs changing?

Pharmaceutical companies are under increased pressure to understand carrier ambient environments in order to develop or justify their transportation method and risk mitigation plan.

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The right temperature controls from car to cooler have evolved.

Pharma companies are also finding a greater need to optimize the product carton and shipping carton, to minimize unused space, and select more precise packaging configurations.

You’ll see more efforts placed on sustainable materials, and demand will grow for carriers to offer more temperature controls within its network to minimize packout complexities, costs and requirements.

An increased number of pharmaceutical companies are also innovating and collaborating with reputable 3PLs to create better efficiencies, de-bulk shipments and reduce dimensional weight costs.

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What type of packaging is most in demand among clients?

Styrofoam and water-based PCM are still in high demand, while polyurethane demand is declining, since it is not recyclable and heavier than Styrofoam.

Pharma companies are finding a greater need to optimize the product carton and shipping carton, to minimize unused space, and select more precise packaging configurations.

You’ll see more efforts placed on sustainable materials, and demand will grow for carriers to offer more temperature controls within its network to minimize packout complexities, costs and requirements.

The healthcare industry is challenged to do more with less, and the question of where to invest and what to outsource is a lofty, necessary analysis for any effective business strategy.

Firms that focus on core competencies and free up capital reserved for logistical assets have the opportunity to leverage collaborative solutions needed to face supply chain challenges such as cost management, regulatory compliance, product security, mitigating product damage and spoilage, and gaining better inventory visibility.

How is serialization impacting supply chain security?

According to the 2015 UPS Pain in the (Supply) Chain survey, which uncovers healthcare executives’ pain points, opportunities and strategies in their supply chain, what’s most interesting is the optimism logistics decision-makers have with product security  — with 75% of respondents reporting success in this area.

This represents a 20% increase over 2014. Credited are investments such as bar-coding, serialization and better cooperation with law enforcement agencies.

With the enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, healthcare companies are getting in lockstep with establishing an interoperable track-and-trace system where manufacturers would serialize their product, i.e. a unique numerical identifier.

As serialization progresses, new advancements such as mobile technologies by consumers will likely continue to be game-changers.

In years to come, expect healthcare companies to make even bigger strides in serialization and product security. goldbrown2

This article originally appeared on Contract Pharma and was republished with permission. 


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Kristin Brooks is Associate Editor at Contract Pharma.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: 5 High-Tech Trends Reshaping Healthcare | Longitudes

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