Sunday, 18 June 2017

Continuous Manufacturing Provides Many Benefits for the Pharmaceutical Industry

Continuous manufacturing is a process people adopted since the beginning of the industrial revolution — production for a product continues for months or years uninterrupted, creating an unbroken supply chain. It’s used in everything from oil refining and power generation to wastewater treatment and the creation of pig iron.

Guest post by Megan Ray Nichols (Schooled by Science)

Continuous manufacturing is one of the most efficient forms of production and it is finally making its way into the pharmaceutical industry. What benefits does continuous manufacturing provide to the pharmaceutical industry?

Continuous Manufacturing in Pharmaceuticals

Traditional manufacturing of pharmaceutical products is done in batches — a single batch of a medication is produced from start to finish. Then the completed batch ships and the process can start all over again from square one.

While some types of pharmaceutical products might still require this, due to chemicals or components that cannot be easily adapted to continuous production styles, many products are fit for continuous production.

This prevents the loss of time that comes with traditional batch production. If your product requires many different steps, each one has to be reset and prepared before the new batch can begin production.

Benefits of Continuous Production
What are the benefits of continuous production? Depending on the type of production, a company may experience:

  • Reduced carbon footprint. Eliminating unnecessary steps, like resetting batch production, helps to reduce waste.
  • Production optimization. In one case, production that normally took more than 200 days was streamlined down to a process that took only two days. 
  • Price reduction. The decrease in production times can be passed on to the consumer in the form of reduced drug costs. This improves patient access by making the drugs more affordable for low income or uninsured individuals. 
  • Higher and more uniform quality. Batch-produced products often vary in quality from batch to batch. Continuous production eliminates that variability by creating a constant uniform product

In many cases, there are no downsides to establishing a continuous manufacturing set up for the production of pharmaceuticals.

Challenges of Continuous Manufacturing

The primary challenge when establishing a continuous manufacturing program in the pharmaceutical industry is that there is already an established manufacturing infrastructure in place. Changing from a batch-based manufacturing system could take both a considerable investment and result in a potential loss of revenue as your manufacturing would be offline during the switch.

For a company that produces multiple different products, the best solution would be to convert the production of one product at a time to continuous manufacturing practices.

There are a number of compounds that will not be able to be converted to continuous manufacturing practices due to the delicate nature of the components. Those will continue to lend themselves to batch manufacturing.

Establishing a Continuous Manufacturing Program

Those looking to implement a continuous manufacturing strategy should look into the makeup of their individual products. Will they translate well to the style of production that allows the pharmaceuticals to be continuously manufactured or are they too delicate to translate well?

If the former is the case, the next step is to formulate a plan that will allow you to switch to a continuous manufacturing program without compromising your supply chain.

The most efficient and cost-effective way to do this is to build on the existing manufacturing infrastructure, but, if doing so compromises your ability to produce and supply your pharmaceutical products, it may be more efficient to build a new continuous manufacturing infrastructure from the ground up.

More efficiently produced medications can be made less expensively, a savings that can be passed on to the consumer and make the medication more accessible to everyone. This can all be accomplished, theoretically, while still maintaining profit margins.

Continuous manufacturing could easily change the shape of pharmaceutical manufacturing if it is adapted on a large scale. Right now, it’s harder for established manufacturers to change their ways, but a fully adapted continuous manufacture could be a boon, not just for the company crafting the pharmaceuticals, but for the consumer as well.

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