Shipping Pharmaceuticals: What you Need to Know


Shipping Pharmaceuticals: What you Need to Know

Picking up medicine and vitamins from your local store or pharmacy may be a simple task for you. However, shipping pharmaceuticals is a meticulous challenge. Even more so as cold chain logistics often plays a big role in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Let’s dive in and find out what makes shipping pharmaceuticals so complex.

The Basics of Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical companies have made great advances within the past few decades in making medications specialized to certain individuals and rare diseases. These specialized pharma products come in several different types.

One form of pharmaceuticals is biologicals. This includes vaccines, blood, allergens, genes, and tissues. Biologicals have been popular recently due to the demand for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Another form of pharma products are prescribed drugs such as opioids, stimulants, and benzodiazepines. These have a high theft risk and need to be handled with extra security.

Lastly, there are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like vitamins, minerals, and supplements. All these different types of pharmaceuticals can come in the form of either a liquid, ointment, or a solid.

To learn more about the basics of shipping pharmaceuticals, check out the video below.

Transportation Regulations

The nature of shipping medicine is delicate. Since it can be so complex to ship, regulations are a big thing to keep in mind. Not considering regulations can be detrimental to the flow of your supply chain.

Rules for shipping pharmaceuticals start when manufacturing begins and all through the supply chain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) made guidelines for pharmaceuticals to set specific standards for manufacturing, storage, and distribution.

Having standardized vehicle equipment is necessary when shipping this form of freight. If products are being transported by road, each truck must have temperature control and security measures in place. Routine cleaning of the trailer is required in order to prevent cross-contamination of different products.

Another regulation that is crucial in transporting pharmaceuticals is keeping everything on record. Transportation records and training documentation must be stored for all involved parties.

Cold Chain Maintenance

In 2019, cold chain logistics accounted for 26 percent of the pharmaceutical industry. Maintaining cold chain logistics throughout your shipment plays a big part in preserving the quality of most pharmaceuticals. Roughly 70 percent of medicine needs to be climate-controlled. This is why climate-controlled trucks are necessary when shipping pharmaceuticals. Climate-controlled trucks run their cooling unit independently. The refrigeration unit keeps your freight at the proper temperature and provides insulation, so products stay protected from outside elements.

Proper packaging of these products is important. Selecting the appropriate level of temperature-controlled packaging that best fits your shipment will help protect your pharmaceutical products even more. Using insulated containers to prepare your freight for transit can also help protect against exposure to heat, light, and moisture.

Temperature fluctuation as little as two degrees can ruin a pharmaceutical product. Having the vehicle regularly inspected and serviced will help make sure there is no variation in temperature during transport. The key to cold chain logistics is to be proactive so that your freight remains as unscathed as possible.

Risks When Shipping Pharmaceuticals

With valuable freight comes high risks. Without proper temperature control, pharmaceuticals can become ineffective or even deadly. A change as little as two degrees in temperature can ruin a pharma product. Carriers must be diligent with their temperature logs and stay proactive throughout the shipment to prolong the effectiveness of this important freight.

Cargo theft is a big risk when shipping pharmaceuticals. Prescribed drugs like opioids are especially at high risk of theft. Most pharmaceutical warehouses have high security measures, but the majority of theft happens while in transit. This is why it is necessary to find quality carriers that will ensure the safety of your freight.

Another obstacle is that medicine is becoming more specialized. More personalized medicine is being made for individuals with specific and rare diseases. These pharmaceuticals ship at low volume but high value. With specialized pharmaceuticals comes specialized temperatures. It is important to communicate with your carrier what your unique freight needs are in order to deliver safely.

Choose a 3PL with Experience in Cold Chain

Regardless of the type of drug or the shape it takes, all pharmaceuticals need to be handled with great care. This is where a third-party logistics company (3PL) can come in handy.

Shipping pharmaceuticals is a job that requires delicacy and expertise. Choosing a 3PL that has an extensive background in cold chain logistics is the way to go. As a Burris Logistics company, we can offer you cold chain support from production to delivery, or anywhere in between. You can feel at ease knowing your pharmaceuticals will be in good hands.

Want to learn more about our experience in cold chain?