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5 Trends Unfolding in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Expect gene-based therapies, ocean shipments and cost issues to have an impact on temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals and biologics in 2018.

1. In 2018, expect a more patient-centric approach to temperature-sensitive transportation, focusing on delivering gene-based therapies, a movement toward ocean shipments, and a scramble to serve growing markets in Russia, India and China.

“Because we now have the ability to use DNA and gene-based therapy, treatments can be customized to a specific patient’s needs. The scientific capability of utilizing DNA as raw material has been evolving over the last two to three years and that will continue,” predicts Kevin Lawler, VP of Worldwide Sales at Pelican BioThermal.

2. A second trend to watch for in the new year, Lawler asserts, is that while air freight remains a first choice for time-sensitive shipments, “expect to see continued movement in bulk freight from air to ocean in an effort to reduce costs.” Determining such costs can be challenging, but Lawler recommends companies understand all the components involved in the process. “Consider transport cost, packaging, risk, inventory carrying costs, environmental costs, possible regulations and, keep in mind, these components will vary by lane whether traveling globally or locally.”

3. Another cost-centric trend, he says, pertains to pharma manufacturers zeroing in on core capabilities. “We’re likely to see a demand for complete turnkey or bundled solutions that allow them to eliminate the upfront costs and account management that come with working with multiple vendors for each point of the supply chain.” He notes, “Logistics companies, forwarders, and airlines will most likely begin to develop turnkey solutions for these manufacturing demands that bundle packaging, pack/ship services, and all transport requirements into a single offering.”

4. Trend four, Lawler predicts, focuses on the possibility of using GPS and other tracking technologies for high-value payloads. “Although an increasingly popular topic, [these technologies] likely won’t become commonplace in 2018, unless new regulations are imposed. If they do become regulated, companies will implement them. As it stands now, GPS for temperature-sensitive shipments is not regulated. The benefits of shipping with a GPS device are to protect against theft and the ability to be proactive if a temperature excursion is detected. Although nothing from the FDA or Europe’s Good Distribution Practices (GDP) suggests new regulations to come, a potential mandate from China FDA (CFDA) requiring shipments to be monitored for temperature with external GPS and other data points could increase the demand for this new technology worldwide.”

5. Global markets represent the fifth trend to watch for in 2018, according to Lawler. He says, “Once referred to as emerging markets for the pharmaceutical industry, Russia, India and China have reached a level of economic development with a buying power that will have logistics providers scrambling to serve those markets — including their own unique requirements — more effectively in 2018.”

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