The pharmaceutical market has been growing dynamically over the past few year due in large part to the Covid-19 crisis. However, operating in this lucrative industry involves significant risk and responsibility, particularly when it comes to transporting products. Shipments of medical and pharmaceutical products are regulated by special legal and transportation requirements.
The global pharmaceutical logistics market was worth an estimated $78.5 billion in 2021 and is projected to have an annual value growth rate of 8.6% from 2022 to 2030. The coronavirus pandemic drove innovation in pharmaceutical logistics and had a decisive but short-term impact on the industry.
To combat the spread of Covid-19, governments around the world made efforts to increase access to medical facilities and pharmaceuticals. Logistics companies have developed stable supply chains to make vaccines easily accessible to everyone. New virus strains and the demand for new treatments are driving the pharma market.
Growing demand for medicines
Market growth is also causing increased demand for over-the-counter treatments such as vitamins and minerals, cough and cold medicines, digestive aids, and dermatological products. The increased importance of ambulance services as well as the creation of centralized, cost-reducing distribution channels further increase demand in pharmaceutical logistics.
Pharmaceutical companies are outsourcing packaging and labeling increasingly frequently. The pharmaceutical industry is growing in emerging markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Drug manufacturers choose local logistics service providers with experience in the pharmaceutical industry. However, sub-standard process controls and low service quality levels remain serious risks for drug manufacturers. Logistics providers serving the pharmaceutical sector must comply with complex industry and legal requirements.
Good Distribution Practice establishes requirements for the proper storage and transportation of pharmaceutical products between EU countries. The norm defines a unified approach to the wholesale distribution of drugs so as to ensures an appropriate level of quality and safety throughout the supply chain, from manufacturers to retail networks to medical institutions.
Temperature is the most important thing
Pharmaceuticals must be transported at appropriate temperatures. Even small changes in light or humidity levels can compromise an entire batch of products. Temperature-sensitive vaccines are transported without special packaging at air temperatures up to 25°C for transit times of up to 60 minutes. In other cases, a medical thermal bag, a foam box with a cooling pad, or a thermos is used. The maximum time to maintain a sufficiently low temperature in an isothermal package is 24 hours.
The temperature ranges for transporting pharmaceuticals are from 2°C to 8°C, 8°C to 15°C, and 15°C to 25°C. The choice of the appropriate temperature range depends on the requirements for a particular pharmaceutical type.
"When transporting medical products, customers often require compliance with a temperature regime. This compliance is possible thanks to the use of temperature recording sensors, built-in thermophone fixation equipment, and controls for humidity and light levels. Road transport is a cost-effective way to move medicines. Refrigerators are tightly sealed to ensure that no light passes through them, and factory packaging is tailored to relevant translucency requirements," says Ekaterina Lis, Industry Development Manager in Asstra Pharma Logistics.
Air and sea shipment of medicines
By 2030, increased demand for sea and air transportation of medicines will significantly influence the development of the pharmaceutical industry. Sea shipping can reduce personnel requirements, decrease transit costs by up to 80%, and shrink the carbon footprint of logistics operations. The use of air transport for delivery of drugs over long distances reduces delivery time and the risk of product damage.
"Our customers from the pharmaceutical industry come to us for help developing complex logistics schemes that include transshipment, multimodal road/air or road/sea deliveries, temporary storage in our warehouse in Błonie, customs clearance, and insurance advice. We transport pharmaceuticals by various modes of transport depending on available time for transit, cost preferences, and required delivery quality. Air transport is considered one of the safest modes of transport. Rail delivery is rarely used as there is a high risk of product damage. Most products used in the pharmaceutical and medical sectors are currently transported by road," adds Ekaterina Lis.
From 2019 – 2021, AsstrA has averaged 18.8% more pharmaceutical shipping orders each year accompanied by an average 27.6% annual increase in turnover. Medicines, medical equipment, and decorative cosmetics are the most popular cargoes in this category. Among the most popular delivery corridors are Italy-Turkey, Germany-Poland, and Poland-Lithuania.
Author: Kamila Rynkiewicz.