Logistics providers must work closely with regulators to ensure the rapidly expanding pharma supply chain runs smoothly and securely, delegates at the Cool Chain Association (CCA)’s Pharma and Biosciences Conference 2016 heard earlier this week

The cool chain community must work closely with regulators to ensure the global pharma market, estimated to be worth USD1.1 trillion a year globally, benefits from harmonised regulations, delegates at the Cool Chain Association (CCA)’s Pharma and Biosciences Conference 2016 heard in Dubai this week.

A more unified approach is needed by pharma supply chain providers to address the evolving needs of the cool chain shipper and help to combat annual losses of up to USD35 billion resulting from wasted pharmaceutical product temperature excursions.

‘Temperature controlled logistics is expected to grow by nine percent every year, leading to a global cool chain industry worth around USD16.7 billion by 2020,’ said Sebastiaan Scholte, Chairman, CCA.

‘However, the patchwork of regulations around the world, as well as the huge amount of data being collected as we process pharma goods, means we have to navigate a highly complex system.

‘Open dialogue between industry and regulators is vital to ensure every voice in the cool chain is heard to help us achieve a slicker, more transparent supply chain that meets the evolving needs of the pharmaceutical marketplace.’

Delegates at the two-day CCA event, which brought together over 140 experts from all sectors of the global pharma supply chain, heard that the industry had seen significant changes over the last decade.

A wave of new regulations has spurred the launch of initiatives such as the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA)’s Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) accreditation scheme, and focused the attention of airports on building specialised pharma zones.

Therese Puetz, Chief Executive Officer, Karavan Management Consulting, told the conference the cool chain ‘toolbox’ had also seen great advancements, such as unit load devices (ULD)s with rechargeable batteries, improved covers for protecting temperature-sensitive cargo, and real-time global tracking, as well as the use of nearfield communications (NFC) to better monitor and protect pharmaceutical products.

She also pointed to halal pharma as a growing and important market.

The smart cool chain is the next innovation and this is where the tailoring will happen, she said.

‘It is about making use of this enriched toolbox, which has really grown over the years, driven by regulations and competition,’ said Puetz.

But better communication is needed with the shipper, including ensuring a clearer understanding of the implication of initiatives such as the Good Distribution Practice (GDP) guidelines and IATA’s CEIV programme, which are a ‘step in the right direction’ towards global harmony, Bert Allard Jorritsma, Manager Special Cargo & Services Delivery, Emirates SkyCargo, told delegates.

‘Good pharma logistics is more than just specialist handling equipment and warehousing – we as an industry need to align,’ he said.

‘We have so many handover points for the GDP, for example, and a large amount of complex data created from these handovers, but we have no clear solution as to how this data is able to help us and help the customer get what they need.’

Scholte added that industry must work closely with regulators to ensure that any new legislation does not elongate the time-critical cool chain process.

‘The CCA could work together with The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) to hold closed door sessions with regulators to address supply chain issues,’ he said.

‘One solution they could consider is the creation of a database that includes a quality trademark that rates all air cargo services at airports, to help shippers gain full visibility.’