Pharma Cold Chain Movement - Challenges And Opportunities

The pharma cold chain movement requires faultless functioning of logistics due to the nature of products involved in the movement. This has become even more evident in the post-pandemic world, where prompt and uncompromising delivery of temperature-sensitive medicines and vaccines has become critical. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the pharmaceutical industry to overcome the challenges posed to the cold chain movement at present and make optimum use of the opportunities available to maximize efficiency.


1. Growing prevalence of temperature-sensitive products and biotechnologies

As the world is dealt blow after blow of new diseases, such as the Sars Cov-19 virus, there has been an increasing prevalence of temperature-sensitive biotechnologies, which require greater care than standard requirements. For instance, the Pfizer vaccine is required to be stored at –94 °F and needs to be thawed prior to injecting, with the acceptable storage period being 4 days and temperature range being 35.6 °F and 46.4 °F. Basically, a number of pharmaceutical products are becoming highly specialized, requiring, in turn, specialized cold storage conditions. The pharma cold chain movement will need to rise to the challenge of providing tailor-made cold storage options for new and rapidly-developing biotechnologies.

2. Complex operations in the pharma industry

Pharmaceuticals can be primarily categorized into:
  • Biologicals – for example, bodily fluid samples, blood, vaccines, and allergens. Thus, organic and biological products are highly temperature-sensitive and could vary in terms of the temperature they require. These require the most careful handling due to the propensity to cause change in the chemical composition due to exposure to high temperature.
  • Prescribed drugs – for example, pain medication, insulin, and stimulants. These require secure handling as they are at high risk of theft especially during transportation.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs – for example, inflammation medication, and vitamin and mineral supplements. OTC drugs may be temperature-sensitive, due to which, they might become ineffective or fatal if due care is not taken to regulate storage temperatures.
  • Diagnostic tools and lab equipment, and chemicals.
Almost 70% of pharmaceutical products need temperature-controlled storage, and the pharma cold chain movement is highly time-sensitive one. Due to the varying requirements of storage, the serious medical implications of lapses in proper storage conditions, and high stakes in terms of revenue, the operational complexity of the pharma cold chain movement is much higher in relation to other cold chain movements.

3. New regulations

A number of regulations require adherence to a basic as well as complex set of rules varying from jurisdiction to jurisdiction regarding the cold storage movement of pharmaceuticals. In general, good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and good distribution practices (GDPs) need to be followed. This might include such things as:
  • Proactive updation of equipment to meet condition requirements;
  • Strict monitoring and ,maintenance of temperature logs;
  • Regular inspection and servicing of transportation vehicles;
  • Regular cleaning of storage units to prevent cross contamination;
  • Keeping a back-up inventory of pharma stock for the periods specified;
  • Selecting appropriate temperature-controlled packaging, and more.
In addition to all this, logistics companies must stay aware of incoming or new regulations. For instance, the new regulations brought out by countries like France, Germany, and Austria now entail stricter adherence to GDPs. The cold storage movement, especially with regards to the pharma industry, needs to rise to the challenge of adapting to new regulations and maximizing compliance with both national and foreign regulations.


1. New technologies

The cold chain movement with regards to the pharma industry needs to extensively reassess its equipment needs due to global fluctuations in climate and weather conditions. Outdated equipment could be severely detrimental to the logistics movement. Supplementing the movement with new technologies such as automated temperature-controlled storage units, IoT-controlled cold storage, and climate-controlled trucks are the need of the hour. Using storage options with independent refrigerating units and insulation could prevent exposure of pharmaceutical products to potentially damaging elements such as heat, moisture, and dust.

2. Necessary investments in equipment required

When it comes to the pharma cold chain movement, investment in likely expensive but high-end equipment is necessary. This is because aside from immobile storage, temperature-control is required not only during transportation and layovers, but also during unprecedented power outages. Final distributors and transporters are also advised to invest in temperature-controlled storage options to meet the growing need for the same.

3. Conducting training programs and extensive record keeping

Cold chain logistics companies could benefit from investing in regular training programs and refreshers to train handlers and bring employees up to date with standard practices and handling techniques. Extending this to transporters and distributors would help facilitate a smooth-functioning cold chain movement. Further, extensive record keeping and remote monitoring would promote due diligence and emphasize individual employee accountability.