How Cold Chain Monitoring Has Become so Mission-Critical to the Pharmaceutical Industry

Waist up portrait of two workers wearing masks and lab coats while discussing production at chemical plant, copy space

Imagine that you are trying to ship vaccines to particularly at-risk areas but aren’t able to keep the temperature of said doses at just the right level. When it comes time to actually inspect the vials, you might or might not even realize that upwards of a third of all of them had been rendered useless. 

The same thing might happen if you were trying to ship prescription drugs to hospital dispensaries or even individual patients – you could easily end up running into similar difficulties. The same goes for chemical manufacturers and even those who distribute delicatessen meats. That’s why cold chain monitoring has become such an important field. 

Prescriptions and vaccinations present the biggest challenge on a national basis, though, since they could impact the NHS. Twelve-month prescription prepayment certificate (PPC)  packages cost more than £108, so large numbers of bad doses could seriously drive up costs while also risking the lives of those who can’t wait for a second shipment.

Cold chain monitoring experts have worked to dramatically reduce temperature-related production and shipment problems in the pharmaceutical industry.

Improving Logistics with Cold Chain Monitoring

Temperature-controlled logistics operations are more sensitive to unexpected delays than others would be. Few people would ever want to deal with late shipments, but shipping pharmaceuticals is particularly problematic. 

Specialist firms that act as vaccine transporters or move certain types of ocular medications would have to declare all of their materials bad if they didn’t arrive at just the right temperature. 

Simple delays aren’t the only reason that vital medications might be left out to rot. Problems related to clearing products through customs are all too common in the healthcare field. While these goods are sequestered, they still need to be kept at just the right temperature. Even traditional equipment malfunctions can result in a serious issue. 

When a cold chain monitoring specialist plans out a supply chain, they take these issues into account.

Every hand-off transaction in the supply chain adds one more level of uncertainty, so cold chain monitoring devices go a long way towards cutting down on the number of such transactions in the chain. As their name suggests, they take condition measurements on the products in question, at set intervals, to ensure that no one ends up with damaged goods. Smart transponders that monitor the situation and report temperatures back to a central office alert specialists when there’s an issue.

They’re usually given more than enough time to take corrective action. Nevertheless, pharma industry cold chain monitoring experts report that more than 30 percent of deliveries still spoil on the way to their destination. That’s why they’re coming up with new workflows that can help to further cut down on this statistic.

Eliminating Spoilage in Mission-Critical Applications

While most industries have bristled at the prospect of increased regulation, cold monitoring groups have been working with various government agencies as they look for answers. The UK Food Standards Agency has long set specific protocols for chilling food and other products. Those standards might soon be updated to include medications as well.

Assuming that MPs eventually vote for such regulation, cold chain monitors will become a vital link in the supply chain, as they make sure that the mercury doesn’t rise too high on anything being shipped. 

Considering the sensitivity of many of the products in question, that’s become almost mandatory. A number of suppliers are able to provide convenient automatic data loggers to make up for this perceived need.

They’re often made to be waterproof and come pre-calibrated so you don’t even have to put any effort into ensuring that they’re configured correctly when you first deploy them. Perhaps most importantly, though, they’re disposable. While some might perceive this as a serious environmental drawback of the technology in question, it also means that business managers will be more inclined to use them since they’re not risking the loss of a major material investment.

With some of the problems that could be on the horizon, that might soon become an even bigger consideration than before.

Dealing with Future Problems Today

Rising temperatures as a result of climate change and the urban heat island complex are making it more difficult to ship chilled products. Having loggers that can be inexpensively attached to almost every type of pharmaceutical good imaginable will help to deal with some of these issues. 

Delays caused by European Union-related inspections may also make it harder to adhere to rigid timetables, thus making it vital that cold monitors are able to keep track of the temperature at all times.

Various end-users are still going to have different preferences when it comes to taking delivery of these shipments irrespective of any world developments. Traditional cold chain transportation solutions are often powerless to adapt to these varying needs. It’d be hard, for instance, for a pharmaceutical shipper to adhere to the needs of the NHS at home while also being able to adapt to the needs of Medicare across the pond as well as Japan’s National Health Insurance system. All of these agencies have different needs and requirements when receiving important pharma industry products.

By working with an experienced cold chain monitoring organisation, however, drug manufacturers can adhere to all of their needs as well as those of countless other groups around the world. 

While there’s no sure thing in the world of drug shipments, the hard work of cold chain monitors is helping to reduce the risk of receivers getting spoiled goods.

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