Five challenges in the pharmaceutical cold chain

Cold chain logistics began long before electricity was invented. It started with primitive methods like storing and transporting food in the snow. This is impossible considering the distances goods must travel. These days, cold chain logistics is known as a temperature-controlled supply chain. The transportation chain keeps freight at a certain temperature throughout the entire healthcare logistics companies process. All temperature-controlled goods are at risk when there is a rise or fall in temperature, especially health-wise. Even a small temperature fluctuation can cause problems with the medication or make it unsafe for patients to use. A risk with pharmaceutical products is that they are high-value and can be unable to be used or sold if their temperature does not remain constant throughout their life cycle. This could lead to capital loss. This blog will explore five main phases of the pharmaceutical cold chain and their challenges.

Packaging for pharmaceutical products

The first challenge is to keep your pharmaceutical products at a controlled temperature. Your products must be packed at the right temperature. Cold chain packaging is designed to maintain the right temperature and not bring the shipment to the desired temperature. When choosing the right packaging type, the product’s desired temperature range is the first thing to consider. Cool products can be kept between +2degC to +8degC. Frozen products should not be kept below -18°C. The amount of product, the type of transport, the transit time, sustainability requirements, and quality will all play a role in choosing the right packaging.

  1. The Reefer Container is one of the most popular packaging options for temperature-sensitive items. A reefer equipped with its power unit can maintain the product’s constant temperature. Unfortunately, the rise in reefer use has also led to an increase in drug crime within these packaging types. Staring, Bisschop Roks Brein en Van de Bunt published a 2019 article about Rotterdam’s drug crime. This article focused on reefer containers. The investigation revealed that drugs were often concealed in refrigerated containers’ engine compartments. This article revealed that the most popular location for drug crime was the reefer container. They were often located in separate parts of the terminal and weren’t stacked high because they had no power connection.
  2. Thermal packaging can be used if the cases aren’t stored in a container. This outer pack is made up of corrugated board and molded polyurethane foam. This outer pack is used to maintain a temperature range that has been pre-determined by external factors in the supply chain.
  3. Finally, the packaging should contain cold materials. Dry Ice can keep goods frozen for extended periods and is especially useful for pharmaceutical shipping. Liquid Nitrogen is similar to dry ice, but it is approximate -196degC. However, this substance is considered hazardous while shipping pharmaceuticals. Eutectic plates are used for pharmaceuticals that are chilled products. They keep the temperature within the 2-8degC range. To maintain the temperature, you can use covers or quilts to cover the cargo.

Cold transport

What are the key points to remember when transporting pharmaceutical products from A-B? The obvious factor is the mode of transport, but so are the particular characteristics of each. You need to consider safety, speed, flexibility, and cost. Intermodal trucking is the most common method of cold pharmaceutical logistics.

Protecting your pharmaceuticals from theft is another important consideration when transporting them. Theft can not only cause product loss and disservice to the patients who require the medicine, but it can also lead to the sale of stolen drugs on the black market. Although it is possible to store the goods securely, most thefts happen during transport. SensiTech, a pharmaceutical company, claims that 75% of all thefts of pharmaceutical products occur while the product is on the road. Secure products using GPS cargo tracking is a solution. Distinctly labeling the product packaging is another way to prevent theft. Packaging that clearly states what’s inside could be an invitation for theft. Reduce the handling of this cargo. The more parties involved in the supply chain, the greater the chance of lost or stolen products, is another tip.

Cold Storage for pharmaceuticals

When storing pharmaceuticals, it is important to fully understand the product specifications and requirements for sensitivity to light, moisture, heat, and light. A cool, dry area is the best place to store pharmaceuticals.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also requires that the warehouse provider meets the required regulatory standards. These regulations will be covered in another blog.

Additional documentation for cold transport

Normal supply chains are subject to multiple regulations. However, cold supply chains have more rules. The carrier must keep temperature logs to record the temperature of their cargo. This is often done every hour. Failure to fill the temperature logs correctly can result in multiple fines or even the suspension of your commercial shipping license.


Technology has advanced tremendously in the area of cold chain logistics because of all its characteristics. Below are some recent developments:

  1. Data loggers that automatically record temperature, humidity, and shock during storage and transport. Ensure that all documentation is current and digitally accessible.
  2. To save money, trailer technology can include insulated containers and other types of reefers.
  3. Technology such as driver and personnel training, or loading and technology. Handling pharmaceutical products safely is key. To ensure that the truck stays at the right temperature, the driver must have a good understanding of the operation of refrigerated trucks.

What is the most difficult part of the cold chain? All of the above because there are many links in the cold chains. The value of these goods can be higher, and patients who take the medicine are at risk if they aren’t properly packed, stored, and transported. Grand View Research Inc estimates that the global cold chain logistics market will be worth 447,5 billion by 2025. Therefore, Grand View Research Inc will continue to improve cold storage, packing, and processing procedures. It is vital to keep up with changes in regulations and documentation. You can also learn how to improve your chain. How can you minimize your risks? Common practice is to outsource entire chains to third-party logistical companies that have more experience in cold chain logistics. They will be more familiar with the various regulations and standard practices in each country, as well as have the connections required to manage this complicated chain.

Broekman Logistics has the experience, knowledge, and connections to provide reliable logistics third parties for pharmaceutical products. We can not only provide cold storage facilities but we also have a wide network of trusted parties in the pharmaceutical industry. Broekman Logistics is here to help with all your pharmaceutical needs.

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Jerome Dodson