Advancing medicine requires more secure supply chains

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securing supply chains

We stand at the threshold of a new era for pharmaceutical supply chains, driven by breakthroughs in personalised medicine, the rising prevalence of biologics, and the integration of digital health technologies.

Although the evolution is exciting, it also introduces a critical challenge: the need for secure and effective shipment of increasingly complex and valuable biopharmaceuticals.

Between mastering the intricacies of transporting sensitive biologics, implementing rigorous risk management strategies, and enhancing transparency across the supply chain, pharma leaders will need to level up. To ensure the agility needed, it’s essential to prepare and drive the right changes.

Expect risk to happen - and prepare accordingly

For pharmaceutical supply chains, resilience isn't just a concept - it's a necessity.

The intrusion of geopolitical tensions into supply chains like the ongoing Red Sea crisis reflects a broader trend that exposes the vulnerability of pharmaceutical supply chains to external disruptions.

On top of this, manufacturers are increasingly sourcing significant portions of their drug substance supply from emerging markets, sometimes exceeding 60%. Their heightened reliance on specific regions for critical materials amplifies the risk posed by geopolitical instability.

Geopolitical risk is not the only threat to pharmaceutical supply chains. The necessity for specific temperature ranges to keep medicine usable - coupled with lengthy transport routes from emerging market sources - increases the risk of temperature deviations. Without real-time tracking and temperature monitoring, companies often remain unaware that a product has been compromised until it’s already too late.

Given the unique nature of pharmaceutical products - particularly those intended for small, defined patient populations with critical needs - a specialised approach to supply chain management is crucial.

To effectively mitigate risks and achieve full visibility into their supply chains, pharmaceutical companies should drive three key changes: adopt advanced real-time tracking technologies with customised alerts, partner with third-party monitoring services for continuous oversight, and incorporate predictive analytics for proactive risk management.

Real-time tracking saves lives

Our 2024 survey exploring supply chain visibility, with nearly 250 participants, including those from the pharmaceutical sector, uncovered that almost half lack real-time shipment tracking capabilities. The stakes are too high in the pharmaceutical realm for this level of neglect. Here, a lost package could directly translate to a patient missing out on essential, potentially life-saving medical treatment.

It’s critical to monitor the location, temperature, and overall integrity of pharmaceutical products in transit to mitigate the risk of lost shipments. This level of visibility enhances patient safety, ensures the timely delivery of medications, and fosters trust across the healthcare ecosystem, which is needed more than ever. But it’s only the first step. To capitalise in real-time visibility, leaders need immediate alerts with actionable insights.

Real-time alerts for immediate issue identification

Roughly 20-25% of temperature-sensitive products, such as vaccines, experience spoilage during transit due to temperature inconsistencies. This leads to substantial financial losses and, more critically, delays in patient care. Real-time monitoring systems equipped with alert capabilities can notify stakeholders the moment a shipment veers off-course or encounters environmental conditions that could jeopardise product integrity.

Customised, real-time alerts are essential tools for maintaining the continuity and security of pharmaceutical shipments. These alerts can be tailored to specific thresholds for temperature, location, and other critical parameters - ensuring that stakeholders can react promptly to any anomalies. The alert will guide the driver with actionable advice to quickly resolve the issue. This level of immediacy in monitoring and response protocols is indispensable for protecting high-value shipments, as well as ensuring that life-saving medications reach their destinations safely and on time.

For instance, consider the success story of a global pharmaceutical company that, utilising a cloud-hosted real-time visibility tracker, averted a potential disaster. When alerted to an unscheduled stop and critical temperature fluctuations of a shipment containing a newly-launched medical product, the company promptly intervened. This timely action preserved a shipment valued at approximately $1.5 million - avoiding significant delays for additional testing or reshipment and ensuring the product's swift market entry.

24/7 third-party shipment monitoring: A critical safety net

Partnering with a specialised provider of real-time shipment visibility offers pharmaceutical companies an essential layer of security by ensuring their shipments are continuously monitored.

This around-the-clock monitoring offers not just vigilance over international shipments across different time zones, but also an immediate alert system for any temperature deviations or issues, ensuring swift corrective actions can be taken, often before they escalate.

The peace of mind this service provides to supply chain teams is invaluable, freeing them to focus on other operational priorities while knowing that their shipments are being proactively managed. 24/7 third-party shipment monitoring acts as a comprehensive safety net, enhancing operational efficiency and ensuring the integrity of shipments, thereby maintaining the trust and reliability that are vital to patient care and pharmaceutical delivery.

Predictive insights for proactive risk mitigation

Advanced predictive analytics revolutionise how companies manage their supply chain operations.

By leveraging vast amounts of data - from historical shipping records to real-time environmental conditions to global geopolitical developments - analytics provide pharmaceutical companies with actionable insights. This enables them to not only anticipate potential disruptions, but also proactively adjust their strategies to ensure the continuous and safe delivery of medications.

This approach is particularly crucial in the pharmaceutical context, where the stakes include not just financial loss or logistical setbacks, but directly impact patient health and treatment outcomes. Predictive analytics can forecast potential issues ranging from delays due to regulatory changes, risks associated with natural disasters, to temperature fluctuations that could compromise temperature-sensitive biologics and vaccines.

This level of foresight is essential for maintaining the supply of critical medications, especially during global health emergencies, when demand may surge unexpectedly.

The future of pharmaceutical supply chains

With an estimated $35 billion lost annually in the pharmaceutical industry due to misplaced products, there’s never been a better time to drive change. By embracing real-time tracking and predictive analytics, pharmaceutical companies can ensure the timely and secure delivery of medications amidst the complexities of global logistics and ongoing disruption.

Alex Guillen
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Alex Guillen
15 April, 2024