Pharmaceutical innovation is one of the keys to a better quality of life for people around the world, and researchers are developing new, more effective treatments for many conditions faster than ever.
In May 2019, the global market for vaccines was projected to reach $59 billion in 2020, nearly doubling the size of the market in 2014. Many modern drugs including cell and gene therapies are biologics, made from living cells. Therapies in this rapidly growing pharma category treat diseases including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV and some kinds of cancer.
However, vaccines, biologics and some other pharmaceuticals have to be stored at specific temperatures to preserve their efficacy. Even some over the counter (OTC) medications can be damaged by extremes of temperature. This need for specific temperature ranges is why pharmaceutical manufacturers invest heavily in temperature controls and monitoring inside their facilities.
But right now, the industry loses an estimated $35 billion each year because of cold-chain monitoring problems once their products leave the plant.
The $35 billion problem is temperature excursions—products reaching temperatures above or below their ideal range while in transit. These pharmaceuticals leave the plant at full efficacy. But along the way, a hot cargo hold or trailer, or a long stay on a sunny tarmac, can render them ineffective or unsafe. Even products that arrive in ideal condition may deteriorate at their destination, because many places lack the infrastructure and tech to keep vaccines and other medications at the proper temperature until use.
According to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, part of the problem is that the supply chain for vaccines was set up 40 years ago and hasn’t kept up with the expansion of vaccine programs around the globe. Another part of the problem is lack of comprehensive transportation temperature monitoring.
For these pharmaceuticals to deliver on their promises to patients and public health officials, there needs to be a new, data-focused approach to pharmaceutical cold chain management. Wireless sensors can help companies collect and analyze the data they need to reduce temperature-related product damage. Here’s how.
Real-time temperature monitoring in transit
Real-time condition monitoring for pharma products in transit can reduce damage to life saving drugs and vaccines in transit. With wireless temperature sensors and a mobile GPS gateway installed in each trailer or cargo container, managers can see current temperature conditions and locations for each shipment. Manufacturers and transportation companies can use this data to assure recipients that their medications or vaccines are arriving in optimal condition.
The remote temperature monitoring system can also be used to set thresholds for acceptable temperature ranges and then send alerts when the temperature is out of range. These alerts can come via SMS, email or phone call to immediately alert managers when there’s a temperature excursion that could damage the products in transit.
This instant warning system may allow managers to fix the problem right away. For example, an alert for a container sitting in the sun on an airport tarmac could prompt a call to the handlers to move the container into the shade or indoors until it can be loaded. And if the data shows that a batch of product spends too much time outside the safe temperature range, it can be pulled before it reaches patients, to avoid giving them a damaged or unsafe product.
Historical analytics of pharma products in transit
Sensor data can prevent and detect losses in real time, but it can also reveal trends that show where temperature-control problems arise in transit. That’s because as the data is collected and stored securely in the cloud, it builds a dataset that users can analyze to see what’s working and what’s not.
A company that ships vaccines via air, truck and ship could use their sensor network dashboard to generate graphs that show which modes of transport deliver the best temperature control for its products, which need to be kept between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
The historical data can reveal specific challenges to consistent temperature control. For example, a company may find that August heat is a persistent problem for its vaccine shipments, regardless of mode of transport. The solution might be better insulated packaging or scheduling those shipments for a different time of the year.
Or the data might show that some modes of travel simply take too long for products to remain in their safe range, and that express shipping is required. The company can then shift more of its shipments to the modes of transportation that do the best job of protect its products.
Pharma temperature monitoring at the destination
When temperature-sensitive products reach the clinic, pharmacy or hospital, real-time monitoring can help health care workers make sure that the products stay safe and effective. It can alert them to storage temperature problems so they can fix the issue or pull the products. Historical analytics can help, too, by showing whether temperature control problems are related to power outages, seasonal temperatures or something else.
Groups like Gavi have been working to modernize the vaccine supply chain and improve cold chain management. Pharmaceutical and transportation companies can contribute to this global public health effort and prevent losses that damage their bottom line by implementing low-cost, easy to use remote temperature monitoring systems.
Ready to learn more about remote temperature monitoring? Contact us to talk about what you need.