Sunday, 14 August 2016

Overcoming Pharmaceutical Shipping Challenges


By Megan Ray Nichols

Not too long ago, the only way a patient could receive prescription medications was to first visit their doctor and get a written prescription. Armed with that sheet of paper, the patient would then go to their pharmacy of choice and wait for it. It was a bit time consuming, but it got the job done. Today, those same patients can have their doctor email or fax a prescription and have it ready for pick-up.

People can also order medications online at discount prices. A prescription is still required, but now they are shipped across the country. These new methods of delivery put many more pharmaceuticals "out into the world." There are always huge shipments of the drugs dropped off at distribution centers for dispersal to the many hospitals and pharmacies around the clock.

All of which means more challenges for drug manufacturers and pharmacists with regard to shipping those drugs. Thankfully, the industry at large is on top of the situation and taking proactive steps to combat those challenges. The first part is to identify the concerns.

Increased Need for Security

An armored car used to transport money is a recognizable target for would-be thieves. It is also a heavily fortified target. Most armored vehicles don’t transport pharmaceuticals. That puts the medications at greater risk for theft.

Too often drug shipments that fall prey to robbery are the result of "inside" information. That is why many drug manufacturers have stepped up their logging procedures. They can track a shipment of pills similar to how UPS tracks a package. By following that shipment along every step of the delivery route, it becomes increasingly difficult for theft to occur. It also helps to modify those routes so familiar patterns aren't picked up on by nefarious robbers.

Safety While Shipping

Good portions of shipping costs are in the actual packing materials. For drug shipments, those materials often need to be temperature controlled, not only on the truck, but also in insulated bulk bags.

It doesn't make sense for a business to toss their shipping container after each use. That would cost them, and ultimately the consumer, more. Recycling bags through reclamation is vital to keeping shipping costs down. To reduce cross-contamination between products, each bag is thoroughly cleaned and inspected before release.

It’s important shipping does not compromise the vitality of those drugs.

Cold Storage Facilities

Just because a shipment of drugs coming from overseas has been protected on its journey, doesn't mean it will be protected upon delivery. The challenge for expanding markets in the pharmaceutical industry is to insure proper cold storage facilities meet with industry standards along every step of the way. This could put the responsibility on the drug manufacturer to conduct spot inspections of those ports.

Increase Regulatory Scrutiny

Regulatory boards from around the world have the option to change the "rules of the game" at any time. It might be that they consider liquid nitrogen a better way to keep drugs in cold storage than dry ice. It could be that new findings shorten the shelf life of certain drugs. This is where pharmacists and the drug makers need to work together to maintain compliance with these regulations.

In the end, these challenges could manifest in a disruption of prescription delivery. However, with proper care, storage, and security measures, patients should expect their deliveries to arrive on time, every time.

Guest post by Megan Ray Nichols