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Evolution of the Pharmaceutical Cold Chain

The unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns has made the world more aware of the essential role cold chain and refrigeration technologies play in the pharma supply chain. Before the pandemic, close to 5 billion doses of vaccines were injected worldwide each year, while more than 7 billion of only COVID-19 vaccines have been pre-ordered1 during the vaccination campaigns.

An Unbroken, Sustainable Cold Chain

Pharmaceutical products require a dependable and unbroken cold chain at all stages, including strict, often extreme storage temperatures. The rising demand has also put the spotlight on the sustainability aspect. Logistics companies, while needing to comply with the stringent requirements specific to the pharma industry, have paid attention to how transport and storage can impact their sustainable practice goals, carbon emission reduction requirements, etc.

Evolution is underway, from more environmental-friendly packaging solutions to technological innovation and electrification in transport refrigeration. Electrification can not only sizeably reduce direct vehicle carbon emissions, but also offers more consistent regulation of temperature.

With the deadline for the end of internal combustion engine vehicle sales looming on the horizon, it’s inevitable that all cold chain fleets will begin accelerating the move to electric vehicles. The refrigerated transport industry is strongly moving the needle on reducing carbon emissions. In fact, low-carbon refrigerated transport technology already exists for last-mile deliveries, vans, trucks and trailer vehicles powered by virtually any fuel source. The technology allows us to completely avoid emissions from refrigeration systems, and the transport industry is ready for the transition to fully electric cargo transportation in and beyond the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Digital Transformation and Improving Visibility of the Cold Chain

Advanced use of technology for transparency and real-time monitoring; More personalized and patient-centric medicines; Omnichannel distribution – are the trends shaping the industry, with an increased focus on digital transformation and improving visibility.

Greater visibility of the flow of pharmaceutical products, using real-time supply chain information systems and traceability tools makes it possible to track shipments in real-time. Real-time monitoring capability is especially important with pharmaceutical products because without it there is no visible indication when a product has deviated from a set temperature. It is one of the key safeguards to provide confidence that the efficacy and integrity of the product have remained intact.

Adoption of Advanced Technologies

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of advanced technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and telematics that help ensure end-to-end protection for life-saving medicines throughout the cold chain.

Blockchain technology has emerged as a powerful tool for ensuring the end-to-end protection of pharmaceutical products in the cold chain. Blockchain allows secure, transparent, and tamperproof recording of data, which help to ensure the integrity and authenticity of data related to the movement and storage of pharmaceutical products at every step of the supply chain, from the manufacturing facility to the end user. Each transaction recorded on the blockchain is verified and encrypted, ensuring that the data cannot be tampered with or altered. This creates an immutable record of the entire supply chain, from manufacturing to distribution and storage to delivery, providing complete transparency and traceability.